Fronts Off To A Terrific Start
Kingston's Darcy Greenaway leads the OHL with 5 goals in just two games.
The Kingston Frontenacs, coming off of a perfect 5-0 pre-season, served notice that they will be a contending team in the Eastern Conference with a pair of opening weekend victories. On Thursday night, the Fronts spoiled the Peterborough Petes home opener by embarrassing them 11-4. They followed that will with a 5-2, home ice, victory over the North Bay Battalion.
On Thursday night, Kingston seemed to mesmerize the Petes with their speed, and tenacity. Head Coach Todd Gill promised a "puck possession team" this year, and on Thursday night the Fronts showed a glimpse of what that means. Peterborough seemed content to stand around and watch Kingston, at times, especially in the second frame, when the Fronts exploded for 5 goals.
Kingston played the game with only 15 skaters, as 4 of their veterans were still at NHL camps, and Jean Dupuy (who recently returned from the Jets' rookie camp) was serving the first of a three game suspension for a pre-season game incident. Defensemen, Mikko Vainonen, and Michael Moffat were still in Nashville. Henri Ikonen (Tampa Bay), and Ryan Kujawinski (New Jersey Devils) were not yet back. There was lots of ice time for everyone, and forward, Slater Doggett dropped back to become the 5th defenseman.
Samuel Schutt scored his first OHL hattrick, including the game's first two goals. The 3 goals represents a third of his goal total in 56 games for Kingston last season. His skating seems to have really improved, as he used it on both of his first two goals. On the first goal of the game, he blew past the Petes defenseman, and tucked the puck under Petes' OA starting goalie, Andrew D'Agostini. The second goal finished a nifty two on one with Billy Jenkins, who wore one of three A's this night.
Spencer Watson scored an unassisted goal just nine and a half minutes into the 1st period, as he stripped a veteran Peterborough defender of the puck in his own zone, and ripped one past a stunned D'Agostini. The Petes would get one back before the end of the period, as Jonatan Tunus would wrist one past Kingston's OA netminder, Matt Mahalak.
The first two goals in the second period would be first OHL goals for Connor McGlynn and Kingston's first round priority selection, Lawson Crouse. Crouse's goal was Kingston's first of 4 powerplay goals on the night.
Overager, Darcy Greenaway would score 3 of the game's next 4 goals to make this one a laugher. It was 8-3 after 2.
The third period was more of the same, as Kingston tallied 3 more goals, on new netminder Michael Guigovaz, who had given up the final two Greenaway goals in the second period, as well. Sam Bennett scored a highlight reel goal on the powerplay in the third period. It's easy to see why the NHL scouts really like him.
Coach Gill was pleased with the effort of his team on this night, as they had possession of the puck most of the night. Second year defenseman, and highly rated NHL draft prospect, Roland McKeown had 4 assists on the night, and did an exceptional job of quarterbacking the powerplay. Kingston will surely improve on the league's worst PP, and PK - which they owned last season.
Kingston faced a much different challenge on Friday night, in their home opener. The Battalion, playing their first game for North Bay, forced the Fronts to change tactics, as they pressured the puck all over the ice. North Bay held the Fronts to just 3 shots on goal for the first half of the first period, as they wouldn't allow them to rush with the puck.
Ryan Kujawinski and Mikko Vainonen returned to the Front's lineup, and the New Jersey prospect opened the scoring at the 17:22 mark of the 1st period on a wicked, NHL calibre, snap shot from the slot. He had pounced on a Battalion clearing attempt. As the puck entered the net, gasps were heard throughout the rink, as Kuj served notice that he will be one of the best players in the OHL this season. He is bigger, stronger, faster, and I predict that he will use his big shot more often this season. Coach Gill has always encouraged Ryan to shot the puck more often.
Just 44 seconds later, Darcy Greenaway scored his OHL leading, at the time, 4th goal of the early season. His line, including newcomers Corey Pawley (Knights), and Connor McGlynn (Kgn's 6th round choice in 2011) were the only line that Coach Gill didn't juggle around, as the Fronts were still down one forward. Darcy also looks bigger, faster and much more confident in the early going for Kingston.
The second period was scoreless, despite 3 straight Kingston powerplay opportunities. Kingston's powerplay would go 0-3 on the night. Even though, head coach, Stan Butler sat in the Press box, the Battalion looked like they are going to be a tough team to score on, once again. Stan was sitting out a league imposed suspension, which resulted from a game in last year's playoffs.
North Bay started the 3rd period with a flurry. 18 year old, Mike Amadio tipped in a Brenden Miller shot to cut the lead in half, just 46 seconds into the final period.
Wilton, Ontario's Darcy Greenaway scored his 5th goal of the season less than 2 minutes later to bring many of the crowd of 4412 to their feet. Darcy seems to have developed some chemistry with Corey Pawley, who has as many assists (4), after two games for Kingston, as he had in 27 games played for the Knights last season.
Billy Jenkins scored the next goal to make it 4-1 on a nice rush up the ice with Sam Bennett.
The Battalion would get one back on the powerplay, on a point shot that eluded Mahalak, before Ryan Kujawinski rounded out the scoring for the home team.
After the game, head coach, Todd Gill was pleased with the effort of his team, noting that it was a sloppy game, at times, but that his forwards adjusted to North Bay's style of clogging up the centre of the ice. While last year, the Fronts would have been content to dump the puck into the Battalion zone, this year, Kingston is much more willing to use their speed to try to beat North Bay's defense to the outside, making for much more entertaining hockey.
Ryan Kujawinski noted that even though the Fronts are still young, they have all been in situations where they were forced to change their style of play and be patient with their attempts to force turnovers in the attacking zone. He said that in the first period the Fronts didn't get enough pucks deep, and their plays were broken up in the neutral zone.
I'm sure that the coaching staff of the Frontenacs will remind their team that they had an excellent start last year, winning their first 3 games. They went on to lose their next 3, however, and suffered through a horrible losing streak mid year. Being in first place at this time of year means nothing, nor does being ranked in the top 10 in the country. It's encouraging to see all of the improvements that have been made. The Fronts are bigger, stronger, faster and more experienced than they were last year, and will look for more consistency in their game this season.
The Frontenacs will host the rebuilding Niagara Ice Dogs on Friday night, and the Plymouth Whalers will make their only stop in Kingston on Sunday afternoon.