It was some time in Game 4 of the Buckland Cup finals this corner started to notice the captain of the Wellington Dukes was willing to do just about anything to will his team to win.
The game was out of hand at the time as the Georgetown Raiders refused to give Wellington a respite and were en route to a 7-2 victory.
But in the midst of all the Raiders goals was Colin Doyle hitting anything that moved and making sure the visitors understood they would be paying a physical price for such a decisive victory.
Sure there’s been goals and assists this post season, Doyle scored eight times (including a Game 7 overtime winner in the second round) and added 16 helpers to lead his team with 24 points in 25 OJHL post season contests.
But Doyle developed a mean streak this post-season while showing more emotion and character than ever before and while it might seem unbelievable, Wellington Dukes fans witnessed the maturation of a playoff warrior this spring.
From a dependable set up man that could also find the net or win a key face off to a gritty leader of young men that would do anything to win.
And for that, the Campbellford product was awarded the Brent Ladds Trophy at the conclusion of Sunday night’s game as the most valuable player of the 2018 Ontario Junior Hockey League post season.
“It was a bit of a shock, it’s honour to win it but I wouldn’t have been awarded it if not for my line mates setting me up and scoring goals when I pass them puck,” Doyle told the Gazette afterward.
To say it’s been a turbulent year for the organization would be putting it too mildly.
A pair of coaching changes dating back to August and a sputtering start to post season where the second seeded Dukes were barely able to skate past the seventh seeded Pickering Panthers are just the tip of the iceberg in what the organization was tasked with facing in the last 12 months.
But Doyle’s confidence in his teammates, the staff, the volunteers and the fans never wavered.
“Some people might not have thought we were going to make it this far after the first round but this organization has a long and proud history, they are winners and have the best fans in the league. There’s an expectation and we were happy to deliver,” Doyle said.
The move to bring in former NHL player John Druce as head coach early in 2018 could have shook a lesser organization to its foundations and certainly there were some struggles as the club and the new bench staff felt each other out.
“That’s some adversity we had to go through with the coaching change and we stayed tight as a team and we weren’t going to let that faze us,” Doyle said.
Another aspect was the addition of Frank Pucci, Andrew Barbeau, Josh Supryka and Bryce Yetman to the Wellington lineup when the Dukes trailed the Newmarket Hurricanes in Round 2 3-1 and facing elimination.
It says here a lesser organization and a lesser captain might have unravelled at the sight of new players showing up and jumping into a game after existing players had held certain positions all season long.
But not the Dukes and not Doyle.
“Some guys knew it was going to cut into ice time but I think we are all team players and we all want to be driven to be better and that’s exactly what happened,” Doyle said. “We had to work hard to stay in the lineup and those guys helped us a ton, both on and off the ice.
After beating the best of the OJHL, Wellington will look to take home its third Dudley Hewitt Cup Championship when the 2018 Central Canada showdown gets underway next week in Dryden, Ontario.
Doyle said Wellington will need their best right from the opening face off.
“It’s tournament hockey so everything happens really quick and you can’t take a game off. We need to play a full, consistent 60 minute game,” he said.
With one more year of junior eligibility, Doyle is currently weighing his NCAA options.
He may or may not be back in a Wellington Dukes uniform next season and if he’s not, he admits there was no better way to cap his time in a Dukes uniform than being part of an overtime winning effort that captured a Buckland Cup on home ice.
“It was an amazing experience in front of our great fans and I’ll remember it always,” the captain said.