Mitchell Mendonca’s power-play goal with 7:15 left in regulation time proved to be the game-winner as the Wellington Dukes beat the Dryden GM Ice Dogs 7-4 in the final of the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. ‘A’ Championship on Saturday night before a capacity crowd at the Memorial Arena in Dryden.
Wellington now will represent the Central Region at the RBC Cup Canadian Jr. ‘A’ Championship set for May 12-20, in Chilliwack, B.C.
This marks Wellington’s third Dudley-Hewitt Cup title but first since 2011, with the other one coming in 2003.
It was a fast-paced start to Saturday’s contest as the SIJHL champion Ice Dogs got on the board first when Kris Hamlin ripped one from the right side that beat Dukes’ starting goalie Jonah Capriotti only 89 seconds into the game during an early man-advantage chance.
But the OJHL title-holders came right back with the equalizer just 28 seconds later when Frank Pucci finished off the work of Declan Carlisle and Ben Evans.
Dryden went ahead 2-1 at 5:22 following a face-off win when Connor Mowatt redirected a Joseph Santalucia right point-shot attempt that eluded Capriotti.
The Dukes drew even once more as skilled defenceman Zach Uens cut around a Dryden forechecker and in on goal before snapping one high from the left side past Ice Dogs’ goalie Landon Pavlisin at 13:41.
Wellington took its first lead 14:27 into the second when Carlisle fired a point-shot that Pavlisin could not control, which allowed Evans to knock it in to the open side.
The Ice Dogs countered quickly to tie it once more at 3-3 when 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 Dukes forced a turnover near their own blueline and broke out on a 2-on-1, with Josh Supryka setting up Bryce Yetman to give them a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes.
It continued to be a see-saw battle, with Dryden tying things up once more early in the third after Hamlin banked one just across the goal line while the Dukes’ goalie was tied up with an Ice Dogs’ forward at 1:35.
Still up a skater after a two-man advantage had ended, Wellington buried the eventual difference-maker as Teddy McGeen knocked the puck out of mid-air at the side of the net across to a waiting Mendonca, who jammed it in at 12:45.
Evans added some insurance with five minutes left as he scooped up a loose puck, skated left, and fired a cross-ice shot that beat Pavlisin glove side.
Jackson Arcan then capped the scoring with an empty-netter in the final minute.
Shots on goal were 35 apiece.
Wellington had earned its berth in the final by doubling the Thunder Bay North Stars 6-3 in Friday night’s semi-final.
Joel Willan opened the scoring for the North Stars at 10:44 of the first on a power play.
Nelson Powers, Carlisle, Pucci, and Mendonca then all tallied in the second period to make it 4-1 for the Dukes.
Knowing their season was on the line, Thunder Bay stormed out of the gate to begin the third and got a pair of quick markers off the sticks of forward Alex Maticic and defenceman Joe Newhouse.
But Wellington capitalized on a man-advantage at 9:05 as Carlisle and Uens worked it nicely at the point over to Yetman, who rifled a shot from the right side to give his side a two-goal cushion.
Arcan later fired home an empty-netter to seal the victory.
The North Stars outshot the Dukes 46-31, with Capriotti earning the win while former Fort Frances Laker Brandon Bodnar suffered the season-ending setback.