Dukes Hockey

Keeping it close

Posted: September 22, 2017 at 9:07 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Long road trip continues with four games this week

Taking the long way around. In four regular-season games, so far, the Wellington Dukes have managed only once to finish in the allotted three periods. The three others games required five periods to settle the outcome.

Sadly, two of those overtime games, including the home opener on Friday night, went against the Dukes.

It’s a lot of hockey.

Dukes head coach Scott McCrory (centre) reacts to second overtime penalty call in the home opening game on Friday night. The visiting Kingston Voyageurs scored on the ensuing power play to spoil the Dukes’ comeback from a three-goal, firstperiod deficit.

But this young team will get no rest. On Tuesday (yesterday) the Dukes travelled to Buffalo for a pair of games, against two strong Toronto teams, as part of the Governor’s Showcase Tournament. It is an annual event designed to bring all the OJHL teams together in one location for a couple days so that scouts and recruiters from across the north east, can size up talent—either already in their sights or, so far, undiscovered.

The Dukes got on the bus Tuesday buoyed by a come-from-behind win in Markham on Sunday. They had lost both previous overtime games, so it felt good to claim the two points. At last.

Pierce Nelson was in net for the Dukes— seemingly having won the number one job for the time being—after replacing Creed Jones in the home opener on Friday. It had been a tough outing for the young netminder from Peterborough—chased from the net after giving up four goals on 10 shots. Nelson came into the game with five minutes left in the first period then shut out the Voyageurs until 90 seconds into the second overtime. But more about that game later.

Jackson Arcan is making an impression on the ice in his second season with the Dukes. (Last season the forward was mostly noticed for undisciplined play resulting in a pair of long suspensions). On Sunday, Arcan scored the opening goal and assisted on two more to lead his team to victory in Markham. The 18-year-old is making the most of the opportunity, mostly playing alongside the exceptionally skilled Mitchell Martan and the exciting 16-year-old rookie Eric Uba. Together this line accounted for three of the four goals. Andrew Rinaldi rounded out the scoring for the Dukes 4-3 OT win.

Arcan currently leads the Dukes in scoring with seven points after three games. Colin Doyle is next with six after four games. Uba and Martan have five points each. All four have notched points in each game they have played.

It was a tough start at home on Friday. The first two shots on the Dukes net beat the goalie. One maybe jitters. Two was bad positioning. But it was the third goal that smelled of blue cheese and sneakers.

With Kingston buzzing on the power play, Dukes netminder Jones stopped the puck behind his net, then he swept it lazily into the corner. But the wily Voyageurs had figured the young netminder would do just that. Rob Clerc intercepted the puck, threw it toward the net, putting it through Jones feet as he scrambled back into position. Another power play goal later and Jones’ night was done.

He’s young. And a talented netminder. Wellington fans have seen that in exhibition. But this was an unfortunate outing—from which he will surely bounce back.

Meanwhile it was Nelson’s opportunity to shine. And he did.

After one period, the Dukes trailed 4-1. Then the hometown comeback gradually began to take shape.

Eric Uba is among the most exciting players to don a Wellington Dukes uniform in recent memory. And he is just 16 years old. Uba is already on a point-a-game pace—scoring the overtime winner in Markham on Sunday.

Now it must be noted, here and now, that hockey fans will want to come out to the rink to see the young, speedy and talented new Dukes team—but none more so than Uba. He is lightning fast. Tenacious on the back check. Fearless in battles along the wall. And versatile— the forward regularly plays the point on the Dukes’ power play. And he was born in this millennium.

It was Uba in the second period, finishing a brilliant back-door pass from Keegan Ferguson who would get the comeback started. Midway through the period the Dukes were moving the puck well on the power play, nearing the end of a two-man advantage. Patiently. Defenceman Alec Tiley found Jeffrey Burridge and the Dukes were within a goal. A moment later the Dukes were still dominating the play. Blueliner Ferguson moved the puck down to Rinaldi poised on the face-off dot to the left of the Kingston net. The low hard shot from the Pierrefonds native sailed smartly into the far corner.

The Dukes had come all the way back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game.

Now had the Dukes continued to press as they had in the second, they might have skated away with a lop-sided win in the third. Inexplicably, perhaps inevitably, they eased up. The team, accustomed to pummelling netminders with 17 shots per period, mustered just eight in the third.

Then in the first overtime the Dukes had a man-advantage for most of the five minute-period, but couldn’t find a way to accept the gift. When Kingston found themselves with the man-advantage in the second overtime, the more experienced Voyageurs pounced.

The Dukes continue their long September road trip this week in Buffalo having faced the North York Rangers on Tuesday and Toronto Junior Canadians today. Both teams are expected to be strong contenders in the South Division this season.

Alec, Theo and Griffin enjoy a burger and music by the Far Side at the Dukes home opener tailgate party on Friday night in Wellington.

On Friday, the Dukes travel to Pickering. The Panthers are a tougher team this season—beating Markham and dropping a one-goal game to Stouffville.

Then on Sunday, the Dukes face off against head coach Scott McCrory’s former team, the Whitby Fury for the first time since he joined the Dukes. The Fury humiliated Stouffville 6-0 in their first game and were edged by Marty Abrams’ Trenton Golden Hawks last Friday.

The Dukes’ next home game isn’t until Friday, September 29. But fans can still see their team play in Wellington on Thursday night—the game, however, will be baseball rather than hockey.

In what has become an annual event, County Baseball’s Lynx will take on the Wellington Dukes in a exhibition match. Jane Allison is the mastermind of the summit meeting of County baseball and hockey along with Dukes general manager and associate coach Ryan Woodward. John Allison is prepping the barbecue to serve refreshments to players and fans.

Game time is 6:30 on Thursday, September 21, at the Field of Dreams.