DRYDEN, Ont. – The Wellington Dukes (OJHL) withstood a frantic third-period push by the Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) before eventually prevailing with a 6-3 victory Thursday afternoon in Day 3 play at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship at Dryden Memorial Arena.
After successfully handling a Cochrane power play early on, Wellington came right back to open the scoring moments later as Mitchell Mendonca and Frank Pucci combined to set-up Ben Evans, who came in alone on Crunch starter Taylor Unruh and proceeded to wire one high, blocker-side, to put his side up 1-0 at 3:55.
The NOJHL Copeland Cup – MaNamara Trophy champions best chance to get on the board in the session came off a face-off win where a point shot beat Dukes’ netminder Jonah Capriotti, but rang off the right goal post and back out.
After a few more Cochrane chances, Wellington countered with their second goal of the stanza 18 minutes into the frame as Jackson Arcan skated across the Crunch blueline and buried one that eluded an outstretched Unruh to make it 2-0 after one period of play.
The Dukes added to their cushion nearly six minutes into the middle stanza as Andrew Rinaldi broke in shorthanded and ripped his attempt down the right wing high past Unruh.
They then tacked on another thanks to the power play at 11:45 with Bryce Yetman finishing off the work of Colin Doyle and Mitchell Martan.
The goal-starved Crunch would finally capitalize early in the final frame as they finished off a three-on-two with Alex Brisson stuffing in a loose puck past a sprawled Wellington goalkeeper.
Continuing to battle back, Cochrane pulled to within a pair during a two-man advantage with NOJHL MVP and Top Defenceman Connor Lovie setting up Zach Hayes on the right face-off dot, who proceeded to go top shelf with 13:05 to go.
Still, on the power play, the Crunch made it 4-3 as Austin Whelan set-up Hayes in the slot who proceeded to bury his second marker in a matter of seconds to bring his side to within one.
Needing to win in regulation to have any hope of advancing to the semifinals, Cochrane pulled their goalkeeper in favour of an extra attacker, however, Daniel Panetta scored into an empty net with 48 seconds remaining to make it 5-3.
The Dukes’ Colin Doyle then rounded out the scoring in the final moments to secure the win and improve to 2-1 in the four-team event.
Player of the Game honours went to Pucci of the Dukes and Hayes of the Crunch.
Capriotti made 29 saves to earn the triumph for Wellington while Unruh handled 24 of the 29 attempts he saw in the season-ending defeat for Cochrane, who will host the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup.
Wellington will now wait to see where they finish in the DHC round robin standings as play concludes tonight as long-time SIJHL rivals, in the host, Dryden GM Ice Dogs and Thunder Bay North Stars square off at 7:30 p.m. CT/8:30 p.m. ET at Memorial Arena.
Dryden requires just one point to finish in top spot overall while Thunder Bay must win in regulation to have a three-way tie for first and send it to a tie-breaker to determine who finishes first, second and third.
The first place side will advance directly to Saturday’s final while the other two teams will meet in semifinal action Friday night.
All Dudley-Hewitt Cup games are streamed online at HockeyTV.com.
Photo credit: Tim Bates DHC/OJHL Images