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January 29, 2017
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It has been a tough season points-wise for Belleville native Austin Labelle in 2016-17.


Coming into the 19-year-old's sophomore season, he was expected to shoulder a bigger load for Marty Abrams' team. However, injuries and inconsistency has tripped him up through the large part of 41 games this season.


He has found his game in his last five though, with four points, including a big game-winning goal on Sunday afternoon in a 4-3 road victory over the North York Rangers. 


The Dukes first visit to the Herb Carnegie Arena in two seasons started off well, with Brayden Stortz sliding home his team-leading 33rd goal of the season past County product (Bloomfield) Jett Alexander on a powerplay from Nic Mucci and Brody Morris to open the scoring over four minutes in. Just over a minute later, North York set things right back at square one on a Nick Campoli goal. The Clarkson Golden Knights commitment's eighth goal in 16 games was assisted by former Belleville Bulls draft pick Joseph Mizzi and rookie Cornell commit Peter Muzyka. The tie game lasted through the rest of the frame, with the shots favouring the Dukes 10-7.


The County kids capitalized on another North York infraction five minutes into the second period with Mitch Mendonca burying his 15th of the year, with helpers going to Jackson Arcan and Justin Bean. Once again though, the Rangers answered back in timely fashion. Defenceman Harrison Toms found twine for his first OJHL goal from veterans Shawn Tessier and Kyle Clarke 1:08 seconds after the Mendonca goal. The Rangers took their first and only lead later on in the frame when former Trenton Golden Hawk Ture Linden scored his 16th of the campaign from Ross Krieger and Matthew Galli at 12:34. The goals in bunches continued when the Dukes knotted the score at three-all 1:20 after from Bean, who pocketed his 13th of the year with assists going to Mendonca and Rory Milne. The busy period left the outcome still very much up in the air heading into the third, with the shots favouring the Rangers 14-9.


It took just 2:24 into the third stanza for the Dukes to get back out in front on Labelle's heroics. The former Picton Pirate's goal was just his third of the season, his first game-winning goal in the OJHL and his first marker in a little over two months, since November 27 in Lindsay. Arcan and Mack Warren filled in the helpers. Both Connor Ryckman and Alexander were stellar in the nets the rest of the way, but the score remained the same and allowed the Dukes to get back in the win column. Final shots favoured Wellington 32-28 after a 13-7 advantage in the third.


Wellington's tight win was their 25th of the season, as they stay two points behind Kingston for fifth in the Northeast Conference following their overtime victory over the Markham Royals. The Dukes are next in action Thursday night, as they head a short ways to the Limestone City for an all-important divisional matchup versus those Voyageurs.


Story by Brock Ormond

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