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Dukes continue hot streak in new digs

Zach Blake, the Dukes’ player who scored the first goal in the new Essroc arena, narrowly misses another scoring opportunity. Ross Lees photo

Dukes post 3-1 win over Whitby Fury in first game in Essroc arena
By Ross Lees
The Wellington Dukes christened their new digs at the Essroc arena Friday night with a workmanlike 3-1 victory over the visiting Whitby Fury to the delight of many of the 1200 fans in attendance.
Coach and general manager Marty Abrams had to be breathing easier with the win.
Abrams admitted prior to the game to being nervous as he looked out over the 1200 fans in the arena.
“I’m really nervous, I’ve got a lot of butterflies” he said as he headed back into the dressing room prior to the starting ceremonies. “We really want to do well in this first game. It’s a beautiful facility and the guys are really excited. There’s a lot of extra ice between the blue line and the top of the faceoff circle and that’s where we have to make an adjustment,” he noted of the switch from the DukeDome to the Essroc arena.
Zach Blake wasted little time scoring the first goal for the Dukes in the sparkling new arena. Just 4:04 into the first period, Blake blew the roof off the arena on the power play from a scramble in front of the net to become the first hockey player to score a goal in the stellar Wellington and District Community Centre facility. Assists on the goal went to Brian Bunnett and Steve Evans assisted on the historic goal.
There were no further goals until almost the halfway point of the second period when Darcy Murphy scored what turned out to be the winning goal on assists from Bunnett and Curtis Leonard as the Fury came off a penalty.
The Fury applied pressure throughout the third period but only managed to connect on one goal, scored by Cole Watkins 15:32 into the period.
Unwilling to leave the fans in doubt as to who would win the game, Evans put the game out of reach with one minute and one second to go in the game with assists going to Brendon Barletta and captain Sean Rudy.
The win was the 23rd over all for the Dukes in a stellar season which sees them reach the Christmas break in first place in the East division with 58 points and a nine point lead on the second place Kingston Voyagers and Peterborough Stars.
The win gives goalie Jordan Ruby his 17th win with just one regulation loss in 22 games after facing 28 shots on the night. His goals against average of 1.78 and save percentage of .944 lead the league and are two of the main reasons the Dukes hold the second best record in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Since their switch from the Belleville Bobcats to the Wellington Dukes 22 years ago in 1989, the Dukes have never failed to qualify for post-season action, according to team statistician Dave Brown.
In that 22-year span, the Dukes have only failed to achieve a .500 record or better twice and they have gone an impressive 14 consecutive years since that last failure. It was in the 1996-97 season when they last failed to reach .500 when they had a young 15-year-old goaltender in nets (Andrew Raycraft), a goaltender who went on to simply win rookie of the year in the National Hockey League.
“I believe that year actually made him better,” Brown said of Raycraft.
The Dukes are now very close to qualifying for post-season action in that 22nd year, according to Brown.
If they hope to continue the torrid pace in the new Essroc arena they maintained in the old Dukedome this season, they will have to go perfect in the remaining 11 home games. In their 12 home games in the Dukedome this year, the team managed an impressive 23 points out of a possible 24 while collecting 58 points out of a possible 68 in their first 34 games of the schedule.
Doubly encouraging for the Wellington Dukes’ staff had to be the number of young fans out to witness the historic first game in the beautiful new arena.
“Let’s just hope we can keep them coming back,” Hugh Parliament stated near the end of the game.
Photos by Ross Lees

The official opening puck drop.

Twelve hundred fans packed the Essroc arena Friday night – including former mayor Leo Finnegan – to cheer the Dukes to their first win in the new facility.

Brandie Bakker, 8, of Wellington gets down and boogies during a break in the action Friday night when the Dukes defeated the Whitby Fury 3-1 in their first game in the new Essroc Community Centre.

Enjoying the action at the new Dukes home.

Darcy Greenway is covered at the side of the Fury net.

Joe Zarbo tries to get to the rebound.

Steve Evans is blocked on this scoring attempt.

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