It wasn’t the result that the Dryden GM Ice Dogs were looking for, but you can’t deny that the Dogs’ season was nothing short of spectacular.
Two goals in the first two minutes of the final game in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Junior A Championship put the sellout crowd in the Dryden Memorial Arena on the edge of their seats, as the Dogs took on the Wellington Dukes.
A Mitchell Mendonca power play goal with 7:15 remaining in regulation proved to be the game-winner as the Dukes went on to defeat the Ice Dogs 7-4.
It was a fast-paced start to the contest with the SIJHL champion GM Ice Dogs getting on the board first as Kris Hamlin ripped one from right side that beat Dukes’ starter Jonah Capriotti 89 seconds into the game during an early man advantage chance. However, the OJHL title holders came right back with the equalizer just 28 seconds later with Frank Pucci stuffing in the equalizer finishing off the work of Declan Carlile and Ben Evans.
Dryden regained the lead at 5:22 of the first following a face-off win with Connor Mowatt redirecting a Joseph Santalucia right point attempt that eluded Capriotti. The action-packed, back and forth session saw the Dukes draw level once more as skilled defenceman Zach Uens cut around a Dryden forechecker and in before snapping one high from the left side at 13:41.
Wellington took their first lead of the night 14:27 into the middle session after Carlile let a point shot that Pavlisin could not control and allowed Ben Evans to knock it in to the open side. The GM Ice Dogs countered quickly to tie it once more as Eric Stout sent Ted Davis in over the blueline where he used a Dukes’ defender as a screen and put one past Capriotti.
However, down a man late in the second, the OJHLers forced a turnover near their own blueline and broke out on a two-on-one with Josh Supryka setting up Bryce Yetman for the go-ahead tally to give them a 4-3 lead after two periods of play. It continued to be a see-saw battle with Dryden tying things up once more, early in the third, with Hamlin banking one just across the goal line while the Dukes netminder was tied up with a GM Ice Dogs forward at 1:35.
Still up a skater after a two-man advantage had ended, Wellington would get the eventual difference maker as Teddy McGeen knocked one out of mid-air at the side of the net across to a waiting Mendonca who jammed in the decider at 12:45.
Ben Evans added some insurance with five minutes left as he scooped up a loose puck then skated left and fired a cross-ice shot that beat Pavlisin glove side before Jackson Arcan iced it with an empty netter in the final minute to wrap things up. Shots on goal in the contest were 35 apiece.
With the win, Wellington will now advance to represent the Central Region at the RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A Championship, May 12-20, in Chilliwack, B.C. This marks Wellington’s third Dudley-Hewitt Cup title and first since 2011. The other came in 2003.
Ice Dogs forward Kris Hamlin was named the player of the game for Dryden. Jacen Bracko was named as one of the top forwards of the tournament. Landon Pavlisin was named the top goaltender and MVP of the Dudley-Hewitt.
“Wellington is such a first-class team, it doesn’t hurt too much to lose to them. They put in a lot of effort. I wish it was a better outcome for our boys, but we had a fabulous season,” said Colleen Oliphant, chair of the 2018 Dudley-Hewitt Cup. “I’m pretty sure that President Mike Sveinson and Head Coach Kurt Walsten are already starting the rebuild.”
“I would just like to thank all of the volunteers that made a tournament of this calibre a reality. Everyone participated, from sponsorship, to volunteers. It was an amazing outcome.” Oliphant added.