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Posted: January 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Dukes searching for positives in a difficult season

The Dukes will be happy to be back before a hometown crowd for a pair of games this weekend. They returned to Wellington late on Monday night after dropping a 4-1 decision in Cobourg— the team’s third loss in their last four games. The Dukes will need the support of a friendly crowd down the stretch—though there are only six home games left in the regular schedule.

Especially if they hope to break the 30- wins mark, a benchmark the Dukes have surpassed in 15 of the last 17 seasons.

On Friday, the Dukes welcome the league leading Trenton Golden Hawks to Wellington. The Dudley Hewitt Cup hosts have a tendency to fall asleep against lower-ranked teams, yet they consistently manage to rack up wins. They have lost just once in their last 11 games. Trenton regularly limits their opponents to a single goal. It is likely a boisterous contingent of Hawks fans will descend on the Dukedome on Friday—so come out and show them what Wellington fans are made of.

The Dukes lost a squeaker in October. After jumping out to a lead in the first, the Dukes allowed a pair of goals by Michael Silivieri in the second period. An empty net goal gave the Hawks the 3-1 win.

Brayden Stortz maintains the lead in the OJHL scoring race with 65 points. In fact, Stortz has earned a point in all but six games he has played this season.

In November, Trenton controlled the game from the second period on—earning a 4-1 win in Wellington.

On Sunday, the Dukes embrace the Lindsay Muskies in Wellington in a 2 p.m. game. OJHL teams have been feasting on the Fish all season long—and Wellington is no exception. In November, the Dukes downed Lindsay 7-2. Last week, they pulled out a 5-2 win.

The Muskies will be hungry, as they are fighting the Newmarket Hurricanes for the eighth and final play off spot in the NorthEast Conference.

The good news: Brayden Stortz scored his league-leading 65th point on Monday— his 27th goal of the season. The bad news: Stortz’s goal was the only noise made by the Dukes all evening in Cobourg. Even when the Cougars filled the penalty box in the second, the Dukes failed to put a puck past Stefano Durante. Then in the third, Cobourg scored shorthanded. Another power play goal and an empty net goal for Cobourg settled the matter.

Nic Mucci was kept off the scoresheet again. For much of the season, Mucci battled with Stortz for the OJHL scoring lead. But since Mucci returned from Team Canada East, the gifted forward has generated just five assists in seven games. Mucci score five assists in one game in September.

It would be wrong to pin the Dukes’ decline to Mucci. All season long the Dukes have struggled to find goal scorers after Stortz and Mucci. Rarely have lines been formed and broken up as frequently as this season. Yet the most productive scorer after Stortz with 65 and Mucci with 56, is Colin Doyle with 27. Doyle is a prototypical twoway forward. His numbers are about right for his role. There are a couple of lines of forwards behind him, however, that don’t have that excuse.

The Dukes survived a bit of a scare on Friday in Lindsay. The Muskies jumped out to a lead late in the first period and went to intermission with the hometown crowd humming. In the second, however, Stortz scored on the power play. Mitchell Mendonca gave the Dukes the lead midway through the period.

That should have broken the Muskies. It didn’t. The Dukes were keen to fill the penalty box in this game, with seven different infractions. When Wellington netminder Victor Olivier Courchesne was tagged for tripping and defenceman Justin Bean assessed two minutes for cross checking shortly thereafter— they gave the Muskies a long two-man advantage. They only needed 12 seconds. Suddenly the game was tied.

The third period was a different story. Wellington’s lost lines reappeared. Brent House, Doyle and Mitchell Martan scored unanswered goals, sealing the Dukes’ road win.