Thursday, May 05, 2011


The Fields Will be Ready in a Month

There are great lakes in the middle of the wheat fields in central Alberta.

The Wellington Dukes have come up a little short at the RBC tournament, experiencing three straight losses for the first time in more than a year. For the most part, the games have been close. Last night’s loss to the Vernon Vipers was not reflected in the Edmonton Sun headline: “Vipers Toy with the Dukes!” Not in the slightest.

Steven Weinstein has been playing for the Vipers for three years. There are two Royal Bank Cups on his mantel. If he scores a third cup, it will be the first time in the history of the tournament that a team has done the three-pete. His father, a Detroit transplant to California, lives the game of hockey. He told me that his son, a diminutive defenseman, is on his way next year to Bentley, an NCAA Division One school in the Boston area.

A ticket to the NCAA is the ultimate goal for most players in Canadian Junior “A” hockey. Many of the players at this level, especially in this tournament, could be playing in the Canadian Hockey league. They lose their eligibility to receive an NCAA scholarship the instant they step on the ice in a regular season game in the CHL. So they choose to stay at the Junior “A” level.

Kyle Murphy opened the scoring for the Vipers on a rather weak shot from the left wing boards that seemed to handcuff Jordan Ruby in the Dukes’ net. To his credit, Ruby maintained his composure, and faced a barrage of shots in the next five minutes from the Vipers. At the half way point in the period, the Dukes were outshot 10 to 1.

With the Dukes a man short, Adam Thompson ripped a shot from the blue line that Ruby stopped, but lost in the traffic once the rebound hit the ice. Robinson was given credit for the goal that squirted into the net; however, it likely went in off the Dukes’ Rusty Hafner’s skate blade.

Jeff Stanton set up the Dukes first goal on a gritty effort along the right wing. He was crushed just over the Viper blue line, but managed to slip the puck onto the stick of Darcy Murphy. Murphy wrapped the puck around the net, saw the puck fly into the air, and trickle down behind the Viper goalie.

Later in the period, Joe Zarbo rang a shot off the post on a Dukes’ power play. Sean Rudy also had a good scoring opportunity as he approached the Viper goal in a two-on-one. He ripped a shot that singed the top of the crossbar

The Dukes were outshot 23-10 in the period, mysteriously changed from an original count of 18-8. The men in the striped shirts had too much to say about the outcome of the game, particularly in the early stages, calling far too many unnecessary penalties.
Just before the seven minute mark of the second period, the Dukes enjoyed a two man power play. The puck came back to the point in the Viper end, but trickled over the blue line. Patrick McGillis snatched the loose puck and headed for the Dukes goal on a two on zero break for the Vipers. Using Dylan Walchuk as a decoy, he fired the puck past Ruby to give the Vipers the lead they did not relinquish.

The Vipers made a habit of looking for scoring opportunities while playing short-handed. They had a couple of other similar opportunities late in the period, thwarted by Ruby.

The Dukes began the third period with a 5 on 3 power play, and a fresh sheet of ice, but could not convert the opportunity; however, with less than four minutes gone in the period, Joe Zarbo converted a pass from Rudy, to cut the lead to 3-2.
The Dukes were unable to find the equalizer, and saw two Viper pucks enter the net near the end of the game. Both could be attributed in failure to control the pucks in their own zone.

After the game, Vipers head coach Mark Ferner commented on his team’s performance: “We knew we were facing a great goalie in Ruby. We got our defense to get pucks to the net, and were able to convert from there.”

Dukes head coach Marty Abrams was left scratching his head after the game. “You have to play with a sense of urgency every single minute in a game like this. We lost some opportunities on our power play. It has gone south on us this week.” Assistant Coach Todd Reid described the short-handed goal against the Dukes as a “heartbreaker”.

At this point, the Dukes are looking for a small miracle to propel them into Saturday’s semi finals. Stranger things have happened, but it certainly is an uphill battle.

There will not be any “toying around” the rest of the way at the Edgeworth Centre in Camrose.

Photo note: Jack Miller broadcasting from the upper level of the Edgeworth Centre, with OHA President Brent Ladds supplying the Colour for the game.

James Hurst
May 5, 2011

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