Dukes drop pair to dip below .500 mark

LOOKING FORWARD- Wellington Duke Dawson Ellis makes a pass through Burlington Cougar defender Clark Heibert during Sunday's 4-1 loss at Lehigh Arena. (Photo by Ed McPherson / OJHL Images)

JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

If one wanted to find the last time the Wellington Dukes were below the .500 mark this late in an Ontario Junior Hockey League season, they might need to access the records from the days when the club played in the old Metro Toronto Junior Hockey League.

After dropping a pair of games this weekend, the local Junior A outfit finds itself in rather unfamiliar territory this week with a 10-11-3 record.

The defending OJHL Buckland Cup champions have looked like anything but in recent days, losing 5-4 to the Muskies in Lindsay on Friday night and then dropping a 4-1 decision to the Burlington Cougars on Sunday.

Wellington has lost three straight and five of its last seven games.

With no disrespect meant to Wellington’s opposition this past weekend, those are games a Dukes team of this calibre should not struggle in if the talent on this roster comes prepared to play up to its standard.

But Wellington is struggling.

And struggling in a way fans of the hockey team haven’t seen in quite some time.

On Friday, the Dukes knew they had recently dropped points against a division doormat in Lindsay and still gave up three goals in the opening frame to trail 3-0 after one.

Andrew Rinaldi’s first of two opened the scoring in the second but the Muskies quickly responded as Lindsay’s Kalvyn Watson scored just 32 seconds later and if there was any doubt Wellington was in for a tough night, the Watson goal should have been the clinching moment.

Rinaldi and Ben Woodhouse would combine to set up Elijah Gonsalves at the end of the to make it a 4-2 game but Wellington’s inability to build momentum and their lack of discipline would haunt them in the third.

Rinaldi would set up Tyson Gilmour at 7:26 to get the locals within a goal and over half a period in which to do it but the Muskies marched up the ice on the very next shift and it was Watson setting up Braydon Leeking to restore the two goal spread at 5-3.

In the contest’s final five minutes, Gonsalves would get tossed for cross checking in Rinaldi took a double minor spearing penalty with 50 seconds left and the Dukes were unable to pull starter Olivier Lafreniere to push for an equalizer.

With the home ice victory over the Dukes Friday, two-fifths of Lindsay’s wins thus far into the 2018-19 season have come over Wellington.

On Sunday, the Dukes faced the sub-.500 Burlington Cougars at home and were outshot 40-27 in a 4-1 loss where the team looked like it was skating around, waiting for something to happen.

Burlington bench boss Mark Jooris’ bunch were quicker to the puck all game and starting netminder Matt Dunsmoor stymied the home side through 57 minutes.

Finally, Gilmour with 62 seconds left to burst the Burlington bubble but there was little joy in Wellington on Sunday.

According to sources, Wellington Dukes owner Ken Clement addressed the team and head coach John Druce separately and the tone of the sessions reflected the club’s play over the last three weeks.

The last time Wellington had a dominating win that showed the sum of the roster’s parts was in Trenton Oct. 26 and the Dukes will return to the home of the Golden Hawks this Friday after a week of hard practice and soul searching.

Wellington continues it’s set of road games on Monday as they visit Cobourg and then are in Whitby on Sat. Nov. 17.

Three tough road games against teams above them in the East Division and the club playing some of its worst, uninspired hockey in recent memory.

It could be a very different looking Wellington Dukes team when squad returns to Lehigh Arena for its next home game against (who else?) Lindsay on Nov. 23.