The Wellington Dukes have earned the right to represent Prince Edward County at the Royal Bank Cup national junior A championship May 3-11 in Prince Edward Island.
Wellington defeated the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League champion North Bay Skyhawks 4-0 April 26 in the final of the four-team Dudley-Hewitt Cup championship in Fort Frances, Ont.
The Dukes had the best record in the Ontario Provincial Junior ‘A’ Hockey League and the highest winning percentage in the Canadian Junior ‘A’ Hockey League during the regular season.
Wellington was 47-1-1, for a .969 winning percentage, for first place in the East Conference in the 35-team OPJHL. A 24-7 playoff performance has boosted the Dukes to 71-8-1 in 80 games overall.
“It’s almost unbelievable that we’re going, for a town this size and a team with a small budget,” said assistant coach Todd Lavender.
“It’s something the whole town will remember forever.”
Wellington is a community of 1,500 located about 250 kilometres east of Toronto. A number of the team leaders are from nearby Picton, Belleville and Stirling.
“Our guys work hard,” said Lavender. “We believe we have one of the hardest working teams in Canada.
“We have a nice blend of experience and youth. We have good chemistry and a cohesive unit.”
Wellington has outscored the opposition 459-149, for a 1.85 goals against average and an average of 5.7 goals scored per game.
Strong team defence, a balanced offence and goalie Dayne Davis are among the leading reasons for Wellington’s success.
Davis had a 1.80 goals against average, .930 saves percentage, 4-1 won-lost record and one shutout in 300 minutes at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup. He established a CJAHL record with a 1.40 goals against average in 1,370 minutes during the regular schedule.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Davis had 23 saves for his sixth shutout of the season in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup final. He has had a significant impact since starting the season as the third goalie with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
“We have had great goaltending from Davis and Chris Rowan,” said Lavender. “Rowan hasn’t lost in 25 games.
“We have a big commitment from our forwards to come back and help out defensively. Plus, we work hard at getting the puck out of our end on the first attempt.
“Our defence is a mixture of mobility and size.”
Lavender and his father, general manager Gary Lavender, list veterans Ryan Woodward, Brent Varty, defencemen Tyler Rivers and Andy Boyce among the Dukes’ leaders.
Right winger Woodward and C. J. Thompson are from Picton. Rivers is a Belleville native, as is left winger Jordan Freeland.
“Woodward has been phenomenal as captain,” said Gary Lavender. “Thompson stepped up in the playoffs.”
“Woodward is the heart and soul of the team,” said Todd Lavender. “He pushes the guys in the dressing room.”
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Woodward led Wellington and was seventh in the league with 89 points, including 38 goals, in 48 regular-season games. He is among six Dukes with 30-plus points in the playoffs.
Left winger Varty was 18th in the league with 75 points, including 37 goals, in 48 games during the regular schedule. He joins Woodward with 100-plus points overall.
Warren Cooper, Thompson, right winger Mark Campbell from Stirling and Freeland are the others with 30-plus points in the playoffs.
Campbell, 19, led Wellington with four goals and eight points at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, including two goals and one assist in the final. Thompson had one goal and two assists in the final in Fort Frances.
Rookie Liam Reddox was third among Dukes with 32 goals and 64 points in 45 games during the regular season. Thompson, Jon Asselstine and Dean Byvelds were the other 20-goal scorers.
“The young guys have really come on,” said Todd Lavender.
Asselstine, defencemen Tyler Lyon and Jeff Caron join Reddox, 17, among the quality younger players on the roster.
Wellington and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion Humboldt Broncos will carry the colours of small-town Canada in their Royal Bank Cup opener May 4 in Charlottetown.
Humboldt, population 5,500, beat the defending Royal Bank Cup finalist OCN Blizzard of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League 4-1 in the best-of-seven Anavet Cup, for the Manitoba-Saskatchewan championship.
Please check the CJAHL web site at www.cjahl.com
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