Woodward stresses importance of Dukes playing a full 60 minutes each game
Immediate post-mortem dissection of a junior hockey game is generally easier and more palatable when one is siding with victors.
Boiling down a win is like taking medicine with a spoon full of sugar as you can happily play the ‘If and But’ game with two points in the bank.
However, over the long run, it would be folly to continually turn a blind eye to bad habits, poor trends and issues that might be creeping into the collective game of the hockey club.
This is where the Wellington Dukes find themselves after the past weekend.
Wellington (17-4-7) survived a horrendous first period against the visiting Cobourg Cougars on Friday night to down the cats 6-4 before skating past the St. Michael’s Buzzers in overtime 3-2 on Sunday.
Despite slow starts and unnecessary penalties at poor times, the Dukes will continue their reign at the top of the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s East Division for at least a little while longer and there’s no need to throw the baby out with the bath water at this stage of the season.
But a few tweaks and a small dose of discipline wouldn’t hurt.
Certainly that was the case on Friday as new bench boss Jerome Dupont and his Cobourg Cougars almost knocked the Wellington Dukes over in the first period as they out shot the hosts 20-9 and only a few nice saves and some missed Cougar opportunities late in the first kept the deficit at 1-0.
“I think we need to look ourselves in the mirror after a period like that and be ready to start from the opening puck drop. It’s something that’s being addressed internally and as the season wears on, it’s going to be crucial to play full 60 minute hockey games,” Wellington general manager and associate coach Ryan Woodward said. “Getting behind the 8-ball and having a slow start isn’t something we want but the players have responded and had some strong second periods.”
As much as the ice was tilted for Cobourg in the first, it was the same for Wellington in the second as the locals responded for three markers.
Mitch Martan got things rolling as he banged home a rebound past Cobourg starter Elliot Gerth at 4:31 and Wellington started to role.
Mason Snell’s knuckle puck volley at 6:39 of the second gave the Dukes their first lead of the contest and the margin was increased as Teddy McGeen finished off a nice feed from Martan at 12:54 with both coming on the powerplay.
Things were going quite well for Wellington and it seemed like the tide had turned until Ryan Porter’s wrister from well out leaked between Dukes starter Jonah Capriotti’s legs with under two minutes left in the frame to give the Cougar’s life.
In the second, Wellington was victimized off a defensive zone faceoff for a second time in the contest as Carson Gallagher put one through Capirotti to tie it at 3-3.
That tie lasted less than a minute however as McGeen caught Gerth leaning too far and scored on the slimmest of angles to put Wellington ahead to stay.
Dukes captain Colin Doyle added some insurance off a scramble at 16:13 but Jacob Black and the Cougars barged back up the ice and made it a one goal game again in just over a ten second span.
Wellington finally put the Cougars to bed with under 10 seconds left as McGeen capped off his night shooting one into the vacated Cobourg cage for his hat-trick goal and a 6-3 win.
“It was an excellent game for (McGeen) and that’s what we expect out of him. He’s stepped up lately and scored some big goals for us and that’s what he needs to do in that role,” Woodward said.
McGeen added a couple of helpers for a five point night while Martan had four assists to go along with his goal.
Doyle also added three helpers on the night while Snell had a helper to go along with his power-play goal.
Capriotti made 26 saves picking up his ninth win of the season.
Wellington’s other netminder Pierce Nelson drew the starting assignment on Sunday against the visiting St. Mike’s Buzzers and was there when called upon.
In what would be best described as a quiet game, Wellington and St. Mike’s played tight to the vest all afternoon with Buzzer’s starter Jack Watson tasked with making a handful of tough stops.
For the second straight home game Wellington would be forced to play comeback in the second.
Down 1-0, McGeen would strike for his fourth of the weekend thanks to help from Martan and Doyle.
Tied 1-1 after two, Wellington was ready to go in the third as Andrew Rinaldi snapped home a power-play goal to give the locals their first lead of the day just 24 seconds into the final stanza.
That lead would last until the mid-way point of the third when the Buzzers connected for a powerplay goal of their own at 9:49.
In overtime, Ben Evans found a seam to deliver a perfect pass to Keegan Ferguson.
The hulking Grafton native doesn’t usually find himself on the score sheet often but made a great snap shot to beat Watson high to the blocker side 1:56 into the extra session.
“Every game is important and while we are happy with the result, we need play better in the first,” Woodward said. “Our discipline is an issue and we are taking bad penalties at the wrong times. We’ve been bailed out because of strong penalty kill and good goaltending but this team needs to take some pride and we need to suck it up more often and not retaliate.”
Wellington makes its first trip into Trenton this season on Friday and heads to Stouffville on Saturday.