Dukes shut out Whitby
Now it gets interesting. The Dukes shut out the Whitby Fury in the first game of the best of seven play off series on Thursday night on the road. Now the action returns to the DukeDome in Wellington for game two before an appreciative hometown crowd.
Netminder Conner Ryckman was the story on Thursday sealing the Dukes net during the early onslaught of the Fury. Whitby might have hoped to make an early statement in the game throwing bodies and pucks at the Dukes net. But Ryckman turned away all 12 shots in the first period.
Meanwhile his teammates stayed true to the game plan—checking tenaciously, clearing the zone efficiently, and staying out of the penalty box.
Dukes coach and GM Marty Abrams said his team played smart and got better as the game went on.
“I thought as the game progressed we seemed to execute own systems better and our team discipline was outstanding,” said Abrams. “We didnt give Whitby alot of time on the power play which is critical to our success.”
He credited Ryckman’s efforts as well his team’s commitment to their individual assignments.
“Ryckman played another outstanding game and our team defence was sharp for the entire 60 minutes. We will need the same effort again to be successful,” said Abrams.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was seeing Mitchell Martan lead his team with a pair of goals.
Dukes fans know Martan is a beautiful skater, an exceptional puckhandler and creative playmaker. But in 29 games with the Dukes in the regular season he managed to score three goals.
Last night he nearly equalled that total in one game. Martan gave the Dukes the lead late in the second period from Austin Labelle and Evan Foley. It was an important goal for a couple of reasons. It gave his team the lead in a close fought defensive game—but it served to remind Whitby, that it couldn’t afford to focus its defensive game on the Dukes top line. Suddenly Wellington has become a threat with every line that hits the ice.
“Martan has been getting chances all year around the net and it was great to see him rewarded,” said Abrams. “He provided energy and speed to his line and was a threat to score all night long.”
Martan scored again late in the third period—this time from Brayden Stortz and Nic Mucci.
With just under a minute to play in the game Stortz was penalized for tripping. With the Dukes shorthanded, the Fury pulled their netminder for the two-man advantage. Wellington won the face off. Brody Morris collected the puck, passed to Colin Doyle streaking up the wing. Doyle hit the empty net to seal the unexpected 3-0 win.
The Dukes face the Whitby Fury in game two at the Wellington District Community Centre tonight looking to extend their lead in this first round series. Game time is 7:30.