Even three games into a season, good goaltending is key for any team in hockey, and with a fan favourite in attendance, the Wellington Dukes got a strong performance from their net-minder Friday night.
With former Buckland Cup and Dudley Hewitt Cup champion Jordan Ruby apart of the 517 in attendance, current Dukes goaltender Connor Ryckman fended off 48 of 51 Cobourg Cougars shots in a 6-3 triumph at Essroc Arena.
The Cougars came out with a ton of early pressure in the first period and put a lot of shots on Ryckman, but could not dent his armour. Brayden Stortz would eventually get Wellington on the board first following some trouble behind the Cobourg net from Michigan product Drew Scites. His half-wraparound goal was his team-leading fifth of the season. Nic Mucci and Nathan MacDuff drew assists. The Cougars would not be deterred by the goal, as they continued to shoot rubber at Ryckman, firing 21 shots to Wellington’s six in the period. The Dukes would escape the frame though with the one-goal lead.
A whale of a second period saw six goals scored in a span of five minutes and 38 seconds in the first half. With Cobourg on the powerplay, Scites had more adventures behind the net, turning over to Stortz, who found Mucci streaking in through the middle. Mucci would go top shelf for his second of the year at 2:26. 43 seconds later, high-flying defenceman Brennan Roy converted on a slick pass from Matt Carroll for a powerplay marker to cut Wellington’s lead in half. The Brent House show started at the four minute mark on a Dukes man-advantage when he buried his first of three goals on a beautiful feed from Stortz. Mucci would draw the secondary assist on House’s second goal of the season.
Carroll would crash the net and saw Wellington’s lead down to one again with another powerplay goal from former Peterborough Pete Josh McGuire and Jordan DiCicco. However, the Dukes were not to be outdone. 27 seconds after the Carroll goal, House walked off the far boards in Cobourg territory and ripped a laser beam shot top shelf over Scites’ left shoulder for his second tally of the game. Stortz and Mucci again drew helpers. Jackson Arcan finished off the flurry less than a minute later by burying a rebound off a Scites blocker save from Hunter Gunski and Brett Schaefer. That goal would chase Scites from the game in favour of veteran back-stopper Stefano Durante.
Durante would hold the Cougars’ fort steady for the remainder of the game, with 17 stops, but it would not be enough on this night. His counterpart Ryckman continued to showcase his veteran poise between the pipes and made some big saves off the Cougars’ star players. House would finish off his hat trick into an empty net and a relatively inconsequential goal from Hunter Atchison finished off the scoring.
Ryckman was rewarded for his efforts with the Hardest Working Player award and second star honours. Stortz, Mucci and House once again had big nights, combining for 13 points between the three of them.
The victory moves the Dukes to 3-0 on the season, while Cobourg falls to 1-1. Wellington finishes off the weekend with a 2 p.m. matinee start against the Milton Icehawks Sunday afternoon at Essroc Arena.