Dukes Hockey

Bad boys

Posted: October 12, 2017 at 9:01 am   /   by   /   comments (2)

Once a hallmark of the Dukes, discipline is slipping away. With it go games that should be won

Dukes forward Mitchell Mendonca has amazing offensive skills. He is lightning quick and sees the ice better than most at the Junior A level. He knows where the opportunities are going to arise and knows when to strike. He knows when to slide the puck to a linemate, and possesses the skill to put it right in his winger’s wheelhouse.

Even though he was held off the scoresheet on Sunday against Markham, Teddy McGeen has proven to be a reliable point producer—earning nearly a point per game, seven in his last five—even as he, Colin Doyle and Mitchell Martan defend against their opponents’ top lines.

In 44 games with the Dukes last year Mendonca scored 20 goals, set up 19. So after a stint with the OHL’s Erie Otters didn’t pan out, Mendonca rejoined the Dukes in late September. He now centres a line between Anthony Rinaldi and Ben Evans (newly acquired from the Ottawa 67s).

In six games, he has four goals and a pair of assists. A point a game pace. That’s good. Not so good is the fact that Mendonca has racked up 26 penalty minutes in those six games. Worse, each of his infractions—save for one 10-minute inciting-an-opponent-tofight penalty—has been for slashing and hooking. Lazy penalties. Penalties that serve no good purpose.

Mendonca’s speed is reserved, it seems, for going up ice. He has, seemingly, little interest in doing the hard work it takes to hustle back and fix a mistake. Instead, he prefers to use his stick to slow down the escaping opponent rather than unleash his speed to back check. Over and over again. Sometimes he is caught and penalized. Sometimes not.

He is an opportunist. He likes to hide in the weeds. As such, he won’t get dirty in front of the net, nor will he do the grunt work along the boards. Instead, he waits for others to come up with the puck.

Successful hockey teams need an opportunist— the invisible sniper. But a team of 23 players can’t afford a player that only plays in one direction.

More problematic, his habits are rubbing off on his team mates. The Dukes’ success in past seasons was predicated largely on discipline. Season after season, the Dukes enjoyed the lowest or near lowest penalty minutes. Speed and discipline.

However, the Dukes are currently the third most penalized team, behind only Aurora and Burlington (though Wellington has played more games than most so far this season).

Five times during the Sunday’s contest the Dukes played short-handed. Twice they played two men down. You can’t win games playing shorthanded over and over again.

After the Dukes drew even with the Kingston Voyageurs in the third period on Thursday—Mendonca was penalized for hooking. The Dukes’ penalty killers ensured that it didn’t cost them the game—this time.

Penalties arising from aggression and tenacity are part of the game. Leaving your team shorthanded because you refuse to skate back is not.

Yet with every goal and assist, the 19- year-old’s deficiencies get overlooked. Excused. His one-dimensional play is reinforced.

Bad habits, once established, are hard to break. Worse, they are contagious.

The Wellington Dukes continued to tick off games at a hectic pace through this early part of the schedule.

In Kingston the Dukes rallied to tie the Voyageurs in a fast-paced contest that tested both netminders, Jonah Capriotti for the Dukes and Trevor Withers for Kingston. Teddy McGeen scored a goal in the second and set up Mitch Martan’s tying goal in the third.

Pierce Nelson is square to the puck on this shot from Stouffville’s Beau Binnie. The Dukes netminder had to be sharp against Stouffville on Friday night as the Spirit forecheckers created a series of good scoring chances.

On Friday night, the Dukes tangled with the fast and aggressive forechecking of the Stouffville Spirit. The Spirit game plan was clearly based on shock and awe—chasing the Dukes defenders hard into the corners looking to turn over the puck and create scoring chances.

And for a while it worked. Pierce Nelson had to be sharp early on. After Colin Doyle scored on the power play, Stouffville rebounded with a pair to take the lead. Mendonca scored late in the frame to tie the game, and he scored again early in third to retake the lead.

But with the Dukes short-handed midway through the final period, the Spirit tallied to knot the match at three goals apiece. Fortunately, Stouffville was the more undisciplined team on Friday. Five seconds after Spirit defenceman Jacob Breckles was sent to the box for tripping, Mendonca fed a perfect pass to Rinaldi. His one-timer gave the Dukes the lead. Evans’ empty net goal sealed the win.

On Sunday, the Dukes skated before a thin Thanksgiving crowd. It didn’t begin well. Either sleepy from extra helpings of turkey or playing their third game in four days, the Dukes struggled to get their feet moving.

Mere seconds into the game, Mendonca was penalized for hooking. While the Dukes managed to kill that penalty, battling tough down low in their own end led to another penalty. Again the Dukes withstood the onslaught. But they couldn’t get their feet moving. A turnover in the offensive end became a breakaway after the Dukes’ defence over-committed. The Dukes trailed on the scoresheet.

Late in the first, Doyle’s line turned up the intensity. Martan rung the goal post and McGeen was stoned on a brilliant three-way pass play. Midway through the second, Graeme McCrory—working hard in the blue paint—became entangled with the Markham netminder. The puck came loose. Evans out to Mendonca, who lobbed the puck over the mass of players and into the net.

The Royals complained, but to no avail.

The penalties kept coming. Another long two-man disadvantage. More brilliant penalty killing. Then with time running out in the second, the Dukes’ Daniel Panetta took a pass from Martan, shovelling it through the fivehole. The Dukes had the lead.

In the third, Markham continued to demonstrate an extremely fast transition game—repeatedly catching the young Dukes defence flat-footed, testing Creed Jones in the Dukes net. On one such rush, Zach Sheedy raced unchecked down the left wing, picked his spot and fired top corner, short side. Tie game.

In the second overtime—three on three—the Dukes were too clever by half. They had had their chances in overtime, but mostly from the high slot or outside. Doyle, McGeen and Evans decided they would navigate through the Markham defence. One too many drop passes. Turnover. Markham fast break. Breakaway. Score.

It was the Dukes’ first loss in eight games.

Come early to the rink on Friday and enjoy a hearty helping of chili prepared by the amazing Wellington Dukes ladies. You will also be helping the team.


The pace doesn’t let up for the Dukes this weekend. On Friday, they welcome the Mississauga Chargers to Wellington. Though improved this season, the Chargers struggle to move beyond a .500 team. But as stats wizard David Brown observes, if Mississauga continues the team’s current pace, it will be the first time in 13 years they will have won more games than they’ve lost.
On Saturday, the Dukes travel to Aurora to face the North Division leaders for the second time this season. In the previous game, the Dukes spotted the Tigers three goals before Doyle, McGeen, Rinaldi and company mounted a comeback to win the game 6-5.

On Monday night, Wellington heads up the 401 to face the resurgent Cobourg Cougars. Dreadful through much of September, the Cougars have won five straight games since September 25.

Comments (2)

  • October 15, 2017 at 1:05 am Gerald

    As I started to read this article it seemed like a nice human interest/ sports article but your comments about a young man seem to be unjust. To say this player is lazy and just waits for his teammates to do all the work. I would guess you have never talked to Mitchell Mendonca or coaches. I googled him and found a number of articles about him and every article I found says the opposite to what you have said. If you watched any NHL games in the last few weeks you would see that the NHL is clamping down down on the use of your stick, face off position, jerseys being tucked in etc. This always filters down the leagues and you can see it at any OJHL game. You say that he doesn’t skate into the zone and let’s the winger do the work, well as a centre you are responsible to back check and help your D and I see him do that every game. The wingers stay high for the breakout, centre is back to help if they lose the puck. You say that bad habits from Mitchell are rubbing off to other players? Mendonca has been in the line up for 5 games I think the bad habits were there before Mendonca returned to the Dukes. Before you write an article about a player maybe you should understand the game first. I see him make plays that no other player would do. I watched him Friday night pick up a puck in the corner and look to his winger and made the pass (any other player would have shot the puck) he went to the net for the rebound that won the game for the dukes. You can sit in the stands and find fault in any player from minor hockey all the way up to the NHL but that’s the way it is. A good reporter would have interviewed the player and coaches but you chose to write your own opinion and we all know what everyone says about opinions.

  • October 13, 2017 at 10:03 pm Fred

    How did Mendonca make out tonight with the 1-0 win over Missiassauga?

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