For the third year in a row, the Dudley Hewitt Cup is staying in the Quinte region.
The Wellington Dukes did the job the hard way, capping off a five-game-in-five day stretch with a 7-4 victory over the host Dryden Icedogs on Saturday night and were crowned Central Canadian Junior A champions for the third time in franchise history.
The final game featured lots of back and forth action, with the two teams trading goals through just over two periods. The Buckland Cup OJHL champions spotted Dryden an early powerplay goal before Frank Pucci’s equalizer less than 30 seconds later. Dryden tallied again and the Dukes answered with six minutes and change to go in the first frame on Zach Uens’ second of the tournament.
Late in the second stanza, Ben Evans put Wellington ahead for the first time in the game with his first of two goals on a rebound from a Declan Carlile point shot, with Dryden tying the score just over a minute later. Bryce Yetman buried his team-leading fifth of the tournament shorthanded with a minute-and-a-half left in the frame to give Wellington the advantage heading into the final period.
The Icedogs tied the game again on a controversial goal early in the third, but the Dukes were able to shake it off and move forward, taking over the contest in the last half with a veteran player as the catalyst. Mitch Mendonca netted what turned out to be the game and tournament winner at 12:45 on a powerplay, then assisted on Evans’ insurance marker over two minutes later. Jackson Arcan put an exclamation mark on the victory with an empty netter in the last minute, sending the Dukes into a frenzied state as the clock wound down.
Other assists in the game went to Josh Supryka (2), Evans, Yetman, Pucci, Mason Snell and Teddy McGeen.
The final shots favoured Wellington by a hair; 36-35. Jonah Capriotti turned aside 31 of 35 shots in net.
Dukes head coach John Druce says the team was able to win by playing tough hockey and, like they had all season, turned up their game in the face of adversity.
After being a mid-season replacement behind the bench along with assistant coach Derek Smith, Druce explains how he was able to produce a winning relationship with new players.
The Dukes’ Dudley Hewitt win follows victories in Fort Frances (2003) and Huntsville (2011) and follows back-to-back wins by the Trenton Golden Hawks in 2016 and 2017.
Next up for Wellington is their third-ever berth in the RBC Cup National Championship in Chilliwack, British Columbia. The tournament starts Saturday, May 12 at Prospera Centre, with the Dukes taking on the East region champions in their first game at 5 p.m. Eastern time (the winner of the Fred Page Cup between the Ottawa Jr. Senators and Longueuil College Francais). The Dukes have never won a national title in their history.
Stay tuned to Quinte News this week for the Dukes full tournament schedule.