The Kingston Frontenacs remained the only undefeated team inthe OHL after two home ice victories, over the Erie Otters, 6-5, in overtime onFriday night, and the previously undefeated Niagara Ice Dogs, 4-3, on Sundayafternoon.
The Otters were coming off a 5-1 victory over thePeterborough Petes on Thursday night. Import goalie, Oscar Dansk, stopped 47 of 48 shots and all of the goalscorers, for Erie, were born in 1995, so the young guns lead the way.
Kingston hadn’t played since their Opening Night victoryover the Barrie Colts, last Friday night, by the score of 3-1.
Kingston came out flying, and drew an early penalty. Nathan Cull then finished off a pretty apretty 3 way passing play at 4:18 of the first. Rookies, Henri Ikonen, and Sam Bennett drew assists. The Fronts outshot the Otters 11-1 in thefirst 11 minutes of the game. Erie got abreak on a ricochet shot from the point at 9:53 of the first to tie it up atone. Just prior to the end of the firstperiod, Billy Jenkins restored Kingston’s one goal lead, on a pass fromlinemate Ryan Kujawinski. Marc Becksteadgot the second assist. Kingston outshotErie 15-9 in the first.
“Run & gun hockey” returned in the second period, as theyoung Otters, and Frontenacs traded opportunities. Kingston took a 3-1 lead on a shot from thepoint by the Fronts’ first round Import Pick, big Mikko Vainonen, his first inthe OHL. The loan assist went toKujawinski, his second of three assists on the night.
Momentum in the game shifted dramatically, when the Fronts’took 3 consecutive penalties. The Otterscapitalized on all 3, to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead. Connor Crisp, overager, J.P. Labardo, andLuke Cairns tallied for the visitors.
Connor Brown scored early in the third period on a prettyredirection of a point shot, to the right of goaltender Mike Morrison. This happened during a stretch where theFronts got running around in their own zone, and the Otters controlled the puckfor a lengthy period of time. The Otters had a two goal lead.
Coach Gill chose to replace Morrison with rookie, ColinFurlong, right after this goal. He wasimmediately tested on a breakaway by Nick Betz, and made a great glovestop. This seemed to spark the Fronts’comeback. Cue Billy Jenkins.
Jenkins developed immediate “chemistry” with linemate RyanKujawinski when both arrived in trades at the trade deadline in January. This has continued, in a big way, thisseason. Jenkins scored off an odd manrush at 9:43 of the 3rd to cut Erie’s lead to 4-3. Less than 3 minutes later, Jenkins finishedoff his first OHL hattrick, as he was left open in the slot, and was fed abeautiful pass by Warren Steele (his 3rd assist of the night). This tied the game at 5, and sent it toovertime.
33 seconds into the extra frame, Darcy Greenaway, last year’sleading scorer, poked a puck under Devin Williams in the Erie net. The Fronts spilled onto the ice to mobGreenaway, as they had won in overtime!
Mike Morrison, after being pulled on Friday night, came uphuge in Sunday afternoon’s game. Hestopped 42 of 46 shots en route to a victory, over the heavily favoured NiagaraIce Dogs. The Hamilton native frustrated the Dogs time and again with great padsaves. He seemed to always be in greatposition to make saves.
Despite being outshot 15-8 in the 1st period, itwas the Fronts who came out with a 2-0 lead. Ryan Kujawinski continued his inspired play with a breakaway goal onNiagara’s goalie, Festarini. Kujawinskiwas sprung by an excellent pass by linemate, Billy Jenkins. Mike Moffat picked up one of his 3 assists onthe play. Friday night’s overtime hero,Darcy Greenaway banged in a rebound at close range at 16:11 of the 1stto give the home team a two goal lead.
Captain Cody Alcock gave the home team a 3-0 lead at 3:30 ofthe 2nd, as he broke down the left side of the ice and beatFestarini with a wrist shot. StevenShipley knocked in a rebound past goaltender Morrison to get Niagara on theboard at 13:14. Kujawinski restoredKingston’s three goal lead on the powerplay at 17:52 from Roland McKeown (hisfirst OHL point) and Mikko Vainonen. Asa result of some sloppy defensive zone coverage, Niagara’s Ryan Strome scored arebound goal at 19:55 of the 2nd. The second period ended 4-2 Kingston.
Dougie Hamilton set up Strome alone in the slot at 3:09 ofthe 3rd. Niagara was within 1. Just 30 seconds later, Kingston’s captain, Cody Alcock, spotted a wideopen Spencer Watson in the slot. Watsonripped the shot past Brent Moran, who had replaced Festarini in the Dogs’ goalto start the 3rd. Watson had hisfirst OHL goal. Dougie Hamilton made itinteresting, as he beat goaltender Morrison on his second attempt, just 5seconds past the mid-way mark in the final period, an unassisted goal. Morrison foiled the Niagara attack the restof the way to preserve the 5-4 victory.
The 3-0 start is Kingston’s fastest since they started the1997-98 season with four straight wins. Thatteam, lead by Colin Chaulk, and Robert Mailloux, was the last Frontenac team toadvance to the 2nd Round of the playoffs. They finished the year with 35 regular seasonwins, good enough for third in the East, behind Ottawa, and Belleville. Theywent on to beat Oshawa in 7 games, with 3 of those games decided in overtime, andwere then matched up against London, who beat them 4 games to 1.
What’s very impressive about the start to this season is thecontribution from everyone. RyanKujawinski was named the OHL’s player of the week, after recording 2 goals and 3assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-2. Billy Jenkins is playing exceptionally well with 3 goals and 1 assist inthe three games. Defensemen Michael Moffat and Warren Steele have been great onthe back end. The players are all buyinginto coach Gill’s system of relentless puck pressure in the offensivezone. When players don’t have a play tothe net, they are dumping it in, and with their speed, winning many of the puckbattles along the boards. Consistency iswhat the coaching staff is preaching to the players now, and with a very youngteam, this will be the most difficult thing to maintain.
The Fronts play their first road games of the season thisweek, in Brampton on Thursday night, and in Oshawa on Friday night. Kingston will play host to the Sudbury Wolveson a rare Saturday night contest at K-Rock Centre in Kingston, October 6th.
The only disappointment for the Fronts so far has been thefact that the fans have taken a “wait and see” approach to this year’s team. Just over 2,000 was the announced crowd atthe game on Sunday afternoon, and those that were there know their wereconsiderably fewer there. Perhaps thosewho purchased season tickets can give them away, if they aren’t able to attend,so that more of the city can watch this great young team develop!