The Kingston Frontenacs remained the only undefeated team in
the OHL after two home ice victories, over the Erie Otters, 6-5, in overtime on
Friday night, and the previously undefeated Niagara Ice Dogs, 4-3, on Sunday
The Otters were coming off a 5-1 victory over the
Peterborough Petes on Thursday night.
Import goalie, Oscar Dansk, stopped 47 of 48 shots and all of the goal
scorers, for Erie, were born in 1995, so the young guns lead the way.
Kingston hadn’t played since their Opening Night victory
over 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 a
pretty 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 the
first 11 minutes of the game. Erie got a
break on a ricochet shot from the point at 9:53 of the first to tie it up at
one. Just prior to the end of the first
period, Billy Jenkins restored Kingston’s one goal lead, on a pass from
linemate Ryan Kujawinski. Marc Beckstead
got the second assist. Kingston outshot
Erie 15-9 in the first.
“Run & gun hockey” returned in the second period, as the
young Otters, and Frontenacs traded opportunities. Kingston took a 3-1 lead on a shot from the
point by the Fronts’ first round Import Pick, big Mikko Vainonen, his first in
the OHL. The loan assist went to
Kujawinski, his second of three assists on the night.
Momentum in the game shifted dramatically, when the Fronts’
took 3 consecutive penalties. The Otters
capitalized on all 3, to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead. Connor Crisp, overager, J.P. Labardo, and
Luke Cairns tallied for the visitors.
Connor Brown scored early in the third period on a pretty
redirection of a point shot, to the right of goaltender Mike Morrison. This happened during a stretch where the
Fronts got running around in their own zone, and the Otters controlled the puck
for a lengthy period of time. The Otters had a two goal lead.
Coach Gill chose to replace Morrison with rookie, Colin
Furlong, right after this goal. He was
immediately tested on a breakaway by Nick Betz, and made a great glove
stop. This seemed to spark the Fronts’
comeback. Cue Billy Jenkins.
Jenkins developed immediate “chemistry” with linemate Ryan
Kujawinski when both arrived in trades at the trade deadline in January. This has continued, in a big way, this
season. Jenkins scored off an odd man
rush at 9:43 of the 3rd to cut Erie’s lead to 4-3. Less than 3 minutes later, Jenkins finished
off his first OHL hattrick, as he was left open in the slot, and was fed a
beautiful pass by Warren Steele (his 3rd assist of the night). This tied the game at 5, and sent it to
33 seconds into the extra frame, Darcy Greenaway, last year’s
leading scorer, poked a puck under Devin Williams in the Erie net. The Fronts spilled onto the ice to mob
Greenaway, as they had won in overtime!
Mike Morrison, after being pulled on Friday night, came up
huge in Sunday afternoon’s game. He
stopped 42 of 46 shots en route to a victory, over the heavily favoured Niagara
Ice Dogs. The Hamilton native frustrated the Dogs time and again with great pad
saves. He seemed to always be in great
position to make saves.
Despite being outshot 15-8 in the 1st period, it
was the Fronts who came out with a 2-0 lead.
Ryan Kujawinski continued his inspired play with a breakaway goal on
Niagara’s goalie, Festarini. Kujawinski
was sprung by an excellent pass by linemate, Billy Jenkins. Mike Moffat picked up one of his 3 assists on
the play. Friday night’s overtime hero,
Darcy Greenaway banged in a rebound at close range at 16:11 of the 1st
to give the home team a two goal lead.
Captain Cody Alcock gave the home team a 3-0 lead at 3:30 of
the 2nd, as he broke down the left side of the ice and beat
Festarini with a wrist shot. Steven
Shipley knocked in a rebound past goaltender Morrison to get Niagara on the
board at 13:14. Kujawinski restored
Kingston’s three goal lead on the powerplay at 17:52 from Roland McKeown (his
first OHL point) and Mikko Vainonen. As
a result of some sloppy defensive zone coverage, Niagara’s Ryan Strome scored a
rebound 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 of
the 3rd. Niagara was within 1.
Just 30 seconds later, Kingston’s captain, Cody Alcock, spotted a wide
open Spencer Watson in the slot. Watson
ripped the shot past Brent Moran, who had replaced Festarini in the Dogs’ goal
to start the 3rd. Watson had his
first OHL goal. Dougie Hamilton made it
interesting, as he beat goaltender Morrison on his second attempt, just 5
seconds past the mid-way mark in the final period, an unassisted goal. Morrison foiled the Niagara attack the rest
of the way to preserve the 5-4 victory.
The 3-0 start is Kingston’s fastest since they started the
1997-98 season with four straight wins. That
team, lead by Colin Chaulk, and Robert Mailloux, was the last Frontenac team to
advance to the 2nd Round of the playoffs. They finished the year with 35 regular season
wins, good enough for third in the East, behind Ottawa, and Belleville. They
went on to beat Oshawa in 7 games, with 3 of those games decided in overtime, and
were then matched up against London, who beat them 4 games to 1.
What’s very impressive about the start to this season is the
contribution from everyone. Ryan
Kujawinski was named the OHL’s player of the week, after recording 2 goals and 3
assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-2.
Billy Jenkins is playing exceptionally well with 3 goals and 1 assist in
the three games. Defensemen Michael Moffat and Warren Steele have been great on
the back end. The players are all buying
into coach Gill’s system of relentless puck pressure in the offensive
zone. When players don’t have a play to
the net, they are dumping it in, and with their speed, winning many of the puck
battles along the boards. Consistency is
what the coaching staff is preaching to the players now, and with a very young
team, this will be the most difficult thing to maintain.
The Fronts play their first road games of the season this
week, in Brampton on Thursday night, and in Oshawa on Friday night. Kingston will play host to the Sudbury Wolves
on a rare Saturday night contest at K-Rock Centre in Kingston, October 6th.
The only disappointment for the Fronts so far has been the
fact that the fans have taken a “wait and see” approach to this year’s team. Just over 2,000 was the announced crowd at
the game on Sunday afternoon, and those that were there know their were
considerably fewer there. Perhaps those
who 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!