Dukes have 11 days to reverse losing skid
It’s time for a break. Time to regroup. Time for the Wellington Dukes to ask themselves what they want to achieve this season. How far do they want to go? From the opening weeks in September, the Dukes led the East Division standings, occasionally flirting with a ranking in the Top 20 junior hockey teams in the league.
Nothing at all is certain now. Wellington still tops the East—but a lead that looked insurmountable before Christmas, now appears dicey, as the Kingston Voyageurs rack up wins. And the Dukes pile up losses. Four in their last five games.
Ever since a humbling loss to the Lindsay Muskies late in December, the Dukes have been moving sideways, winning five games, losing five. That game in Lindsay was the first after the return to the lineup of Colin Doyle, Ben Evans and Mason Snell after the disruptive World Junior Challenge tournament. The team hasn’t been the same since.
Players that once regularly produced a point or two a game now show only flashes of offence and disappear for long stretches of the game. The defensive part of the Dukes’ game, which was fragile early in the season, improved as it went along. Now it’s hit or miss. Wellington gave up seven goals on Monday, six on Friday. In between, they earned a shutout. Against a team that likely won’t make the playoffs.
It didn’t help that their defensive leader, Keegan Ferguson, was on the sidelines sitting out a two-game suspension.
The Dukes’ wacky 2017/18 schedule has the team sitting idle for almost two weeks. The Dukes don’t play again until they welcome the Pickering Panthers to Wellington on February 16. Ample time for some reflection.
NEWMARKET 4 – WELLINGTON 3
In this mid-week make-up game the Dukes were likely the better team—better chances, better pressure, better control. This, despite the fact Wellington was hobbled without the services of Mitchell Martan and defenceman Geoff Lawson, both serving multiple-game suspensions. But Newmarket finished better. Making the most of their chances.
After the Hurricanes opened up a two-goal lead in the first, Ben Evans and Jeff Burridge tallied a goal apiece in the second to tie the game. The Dukes were rolling. But just before the second intermission, Newmarket beat Jonah Capriotti to regain the lead. As the buzzer sounded, Dawson Ellis was penalized for slashing.
Newmarket scored on the subsequent power play. Any momentum the Dukes had, evaporated. Mitchell Mendonca scored on the power play a few moments later. But after that, Newmarket tightened up defensively. The Dukes mustered just seven shots in the final frame.
MARKHAM 6 – WELLINGTON 2
Markham came to Wellington on Friday fully cognizant that the playoffs are right around the corner. Once again the Dukes started strong, earned better scoring chances, but lost to a more effective offence and a good young goalie. Sixteen-year-old Cole Brady stopped 43 of 45 shots the Dukes threw at him. Tyler Richardson had a tough outing—giving up six goals on 29 shots, though two of these were scored when the Royals had the man-advantage.
After the Royals opened the scoring midway through the first, the Dukes rebounded with goals from Evans and Teddy McGeen, to take the lead. It was short-lived. Markham scored 35 seconds later. Then another later in the second. Three more in the third.
WELLINGTON 6 – WHITBY 0
Martan and Lawson were back in the lineup on Sunday as the team travelled to Whitby. But Ferguson was out, serving the first of his two-game suspension. Martan made his presence felt immediately, setting up Daniel Panetta for his first of two goals in the game. Panetta scored on his next shift to put the Dukes in front by a pair of goals. McGeen made it 3-0 on the power play midway through the first period.
Sportingly, the Dukes spotted the Fury six power plays in the game. Hooking. Tripping. Slashing. Lots of practice for the Dukes’ penalty killers. They, and Capriotti, earned this shutout.
Midway through the second, Andrew Rinaldi set up Mackenzie Warren’s first goal of the season. For Rinaldi—the Dukes second-leading point getter— it was his first point in five games. Lawson and McGeen each tallied in the third, to round out the scoring.
COBOURG 7 – WELLINGTON 6
Perhaps worn down by three games in four days, the Dukes struggled to mount a sustained attack on Monday night—however, the chances they did get, they buried. Perhaps a silver lining in this disappointing outcome.
The Dukes had a 3-2 lead early in the second period on goals from Ellis, Martan and Evans. But then some unfortunate penalties. Lawson, interference. Cobourg power play goal. Rinaldi, high stick. Cobourg power play goal. Another Cobourg even-strength goal before the end of the second. The Dukes managed just seven shots in the second period.
The Dukes battled back in the third, with goals from Rinaldi and Evans, his second of the match. The game was tied five goals apiece. But with time running out in the third, Cobourg scored to retake the lead. An emptynet goal sealed the loss for the Dukes.
UP NEXT: PRACTICE
Now they wait. The Dukes don’t play again until they host Pickering on Friday, February 16. Then, Wellington’s final four games of the regular season will be played on the road.