After an 0-2 start the Wellington Dukes finished the round-robin portion of the championship strong winning their last two games.
Lennoxville and Wellington were on opposite ends of the spectrum to begin the championship and the game. The Cougars won their first two and lost their last two, while Wellington lost their first two and were on the bubble early, but they responded by winning their last two games, making it to the playoff round.
The Dukes more than doubled their offensive production for the championship, scoring 5 goals in the game, adding to the three they had previously scored.
"Everyone was going today and we all had something to play for. We’ve got great defense that like to jump into the play and generate offense. That didn’t happen in the first few games. It was kind of hard in the beginning, only three goals in three games, but we were getting lots of shots and opportunities," said Liam Reddox, who scored two in the contest.
Against the host Abbies in their third game, the Dukes were on goal away from elimination in overtime.
"It’s a great feeling, at first we didn’t just want to sneak in the door with the same record as the Abbies, we brought it [our record] back to 2-2, it’s great," said Reddox.
Both teams believe they can win this chanmpionship; that it all comes down to one game.
"Everyone was doubting us early, down 0-2, all the teams wanted to play us in the semi’s, but after winning two in a row teams will be looking out for us now," Reddox said.
Cougars coach Stephan Lebeau said his team belongs in the championship and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
"We won our league, we won the Fred Page Cup, and I told our players we belong here in Charlottetown, we belong in the national championship."
Positioning for the semi-final round on Saturday will be determined tonight following Camrose vs. Humboldt.
There will be no games on Friday as the championship awards ceremony will be held at 6 p.m.
The best chance in the first period belonged to the Wellington, though they didn’t record their first shot until the eight minute mark, they came out of the period ahead by one.
On a poor clearing attempt, a Cougar defenseman had the puck stripped by Dukes forward Ryan Woodward who fed Liam Reddox behind the defense. Reddox placed a perfect shot over Jason Smith’s glove and just under the crossbar.
That ignited the Wellington fans, who have been among the loudest and most supportive of the championship, into chants of go Dukes go.
Both teams failed to score on their powerplay opportunities, and the shots were 9-5 for Lennoxville.
Lennoxville tied the game just 1:41 into the frame on a two-man advantage. Captain Pierre-Luc Gosselin, stationed in the left face-off circle took a cross-ice pass from defenseman Charles Veilleux for a one-timer goal.
Another poor clearing attempt by the Cougars led to Wellington’s second goal of the game as Reddox put his second past Smith by one-timing the turnover, giving Smith little reaction time.
A powerplay goal was the source of the Dukes third, fourth and fifth goals; Brent Varty scored 12 seconds after J.F. Gagnon was penalized for interference and Warren Cooper also netted a powerplay goal firing a point shot behind a screened Cougar netminder. Mike Konieczny was responsible for the fifth goal and for the pulling of Smith, as Lennoxville replaced him with J.F. McKay.
Carl Gagnon was able to cut into the lead at 19:07 of the frame, taking a beautiful pass from Alexandre Gaudreau, who was falling in the corner. Gaudreau’s pass was a cross-crease pass to Gagnon who redirected the puck behind Dayne Davis who was following the puck from the corner.
Beginning the period with a 5-2 lead, Wellington was content to play a defensive 20 minutes leaving
Lennoxville little chance to mount an attack.
The Cougars’ best chance came at the 15-minute mark on a two-man advantage. Unable to capitalize due to the Dukes’ successful penalty-killing Lennoxville fell by a three goal margin.
Final shots were 36-34 for Lennoxville.