The Wellington Dukes (OJHL) used three first-period goals to earn a 4-1 victory over the Thunder Bay North Stars yesterday afternoon in Day 2 action at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. 'A' Championship at the Memorial Arena in Dryden.
Both teams sit with a 1-1 record in the four-team event going into the final day of round-robin play today.
Wellington battled the Cochrane Crunch this afternoon while Thunder Bay faces the host Dryden GM Ice Dogs tonight.
The semi-final between the second- and third-place teams goes tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., with the winner advancing to face the top-ranked team for the title on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Dudley-Hewitt champ advances to the RBC Cup, which is slated for May 12-20 in Chilliwack, B.C.
Wellington opened the scoring yesterday on a power play just 5:50 into the first period when Bryce Yetman fed the puck to Zach Uens, who used a Thunder Bay defender as a screen before snapping a shot from the right point that eluded Brandon Bodnar in the North Stars' net.
The OJHL champs took advantage of a another Thunder Bay miscue moments later by grabbing a turnover just outside the blueline and came in on a 2-on-1, with Daniel Panetta putting a cross-ice pass on the tape of Yetman, who beat Bodnar cleanly glove side to make it 2-0.
Skating 4-on-4 in the latter stages of the frame, the Dukes upped the lead to three when Mitchell Martan, who was left alone in front, went high glove-side on Bodnar.
Wellington added another in the second as Frank Pucci blew past a pair of North Stars' defenders and worked his way in alone on Bodnar, where he made a couple quick dekes before stuffing in his chance to make it 4-0 at 15:21.
Looking to reverse their fortunes, the North Stars' coaching staff replaced Bodnar in favour of Dougie Newhouse to begin the third.
Bradley Thrower finally got Thunder Bay on the board when he threw the puck in front to where a falling Brendan Gillis knocked it in from close range past Dukes' goalie Jonah Capriotti at 18:19 to round out the scoring.
Capriotti finished with 18 saves to earn the win.
Bodnar was tagged with the loss, allowing four goals on 21 shots, while Newhouse was solid in relief, stopping all nine shots he faced.
Garnering player of the game honours were Uens (Wellington) and Thrower (Thunder Bay).
It was a much better outing for Bodnar, a Fort Frances native, in the North Stars' opening game Tuesday afternoon, turning aside all 27 shots fired his way as the Thunder Bay blanked the Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) 4-0.
The North Stars opened the scoring with 3:11 left in the first when Thrower made a slick no-look pass from behind the net to an open Turner Santin, who was near the right of the crease and lifted a shot from close range into the open side past Crunch goalie Shayne Battler.
Then on the following shift, SIJHL rookie-of-the-year Keighan Gerrie dug the puck loose along the side boards and skated in front, where he wired one top shelf over Battler.
Cochrane head coach Ryan Leonard called a time-out after that and opted to replace Battler in goal with Taylor Unruh in an effort to try and turn the momentum back in their favour.
That did little, however, as the North Stars upped their lead to three on a man advantage as defencemen Joe Newhouse and Jake Behse worked it over to Thrower at the right face-off dot, who fired a snap shot high to the short-side over Unruh's shoulder at 2:55.
Dillon Ward capped the scoring with just over six minutes left in regulation when he forced a turnover just outside the Cochrane blueline, darted down the left wing, and made no mistake.
Battler was tagged with loss, allowing two goals on just eight shots, while Unruh handled 26-of-28 in relief.
Behse was named his team's player of the game while Austin Whelan garnered the accolade for the Crunch.