Despite a sizable amount of adversity that has had to be overcome this season for the Wellington Dukes, fan support for Prince Edward County’s beloved Junior A hockey club has never wavered.
And that support was on full display Saturday evening at a viewing party for the County junior hockey club’s semi-final game against the British Columbia Hockey League’s Wenatchee Wild at the RBC Cup National Junior A Championship in Chilliwack, BC.
The Dukes, who have gone through a change in ownership, two coaching changes, youth growing pains, suspensions and other hurdles in 2017-18, got a huge goaltending performance from Jonah Capriotti to book its ticket to the franchise’s first ever national final.
The Mount Hope, Ont. native turned away 50 of 51 Wenatchee shots as the Dukes edged the Pacific Region champions 2-1. Close to 200 fans encouraged them every step of the way with cheers, and maple syrup can shaking inside Highline Hall at the Essroc Arena.
President of the Dukes Executive Board of Directors Doug Robinson says the fan support from the legions of long-time Dukes supporters has been extremely important everywhere the team has gone this season.
“(The support is) second to none. I don’t want to sound too bold or brash, but I think there are a lot of teams out there that are envious of this organization, because of the fans that we have,” Robinson said.
“We kind of laughed a week ago when we had so many people in (the Essroc Arena) at the start of these games that were going on in the Dudley Hewitt (Central Region Championship) and now in the RBC, that there’s a lot of teams that never get this kind of crowd out to the arena for a game in their own hometown, let alone people coming here and watching it on a big screen.”
It just shows the incredible support that this community and the surrounding area gives to this hockey team and what the team means to the people,” Robinson added.
Long-time Dukes fan Paul Lavender’s brothers Bob and Tod Lavender both made the trip to Chilliwack with a small group of fans. He echoes Robinson’s statements, saying the Dukes fanbase extends across the Quinte region.
Another Dukes fan and former billet, Nancy Baldwin, has been supporting the team for 20 years. She says the team’s resilience in all areas has carried them to this point in the campaign.
With the right mold of veteran and rookie players, toughness, tenacity, top notch goaltending and stellar guidance behind the bench, Robinson adds it’s no surprise that the team was able to find success and make their fans proud.
The Dukes will take on the host Chilliwack Chiefs in the RBC Cup final Sunday night at 7 p.m. EST. That game will be televised nationally on TSN.
The full game story, plus a highlight video can be found HERE