Dukes lose ground in Eastern Confrence race

Wellington's Will Mitchell had the game winning goal in overtime Friday evening as his Dukes shaded the visiting Cobourg Cougars 3-2. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

If there’s been one consistent in the Ontario Junior Hockey League over the past five seasons, it’s been how wildly inconsistent the GTA teams are year-over-year. Some years, certain clubs look to be world beaters. Then, in the span of a summer, the franchise changes hands and so do the fortunes of the club.

After being a middle-of-the road club at best for a number of seasons, it appears the Markham Royals are on an uptick and any OJHL observer could make that estimation on Sunday as host club downed the Wellington Dukes 5-2.

In a four point game against the team directly above them in the Eastern Conference standings, the Dukes offence came up dry as Markham shot out of a 5-0 lead through nearly two full periods of play.

Down a mittful, Wellington finally got on the board with four seconds left in the middle stanza as Ethan Quick banged home a power play goal.

In the third, The Dukes managed to a little closer when Connor Hunt fired home his 13th of the campaign but Wellington would get no closer.

On Friday, the host Dukes  needed overtime to get back into the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s win column

After reeling off five wins in a row, the offence went dry on Thursday night in Stouffville as the Spirit blanked the visitors 2-0. Kyle Downey would stop all 26 shots sent his way in a shutout of Wellington. The Spirit’s Odaro Ewere would fire home a game winner in the first and set up Lachlan Wells for a key insurance marker in the second.

Wellington’s Shane Shelest was the tough luck loser, making 29 stops and getting no offensive support in the contest.

A night later playing in front of nearly 1,000 fans at Lehigh Mr. Shelest would receive just enough help in the bid for his fifth win of the season against Cobourg.

After a scoreless opening frame, the Dukes would hit the score sheet first as Cory Jewitt solved Cougars starter Reece Herman 76 seconds into the second.

But the Cougars didn’t need long to get the game back to even as Quinte Red Devils grad Cooper Keller fired home his first OJHL goal just 54 seconds later.

In the third, the Cougars would forge ahead for the first time in the contest as Belleville’s Trevor Hoskin would bag his 15th of the season at the 6:18 mark. With the final buzzer drawing near, Mr. Shelest was lifted for an extra attacker and the gambit undertaken by Dukes coach Kent Lewis paid off.

Wellington’s Sacha Trudel would feed Mr. Hunt at the net with 1:36 left in regulation to force overtime.

In the extra session, a Cougar penalty would offer Wellington a glorious opportunity to win the game.

With the puck on a string, Wellington’s best playmaker in Zander Letreille would slip the disc to Will Mitchell who snapped home his seventh of the campaign and send the Dukes faithful home with a smile.

Wellington continues on the road on Friday, Nov. 10 against Pickering. Wellington returns to Lehigh Arena Fri. Nov 17 when they host Aurora.