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A true community effort came together this past week to make the Dudley Hewitt Cup Central Junior A Championship hockey tournament one for Dryden to remember and be proud of for a long time to come.
The Dryden GM Ice Dogs welcomed the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League champion Cochrane Crunch, Ontario Junior Hockey League champion Wellington Dukes and the Thunder Bay North Stars to the Dryden Memorial arena for five days of high caliber hockey.
The Ice Dogs claimed first in the round robin of the tournament by winning two of their three games.
First on Tuesday, May 1, the Dogs took on the Wellington Dukes and showed the strength of the home team.
Woody Galbraith scored the first goal of the tournament for the Dogs on the power play in the first period.
A tight second period was scoreless and in the third Eric Stout got the Ice Dogs up by two. Kris Hamlin added another before Daniel Panetta got Wellington their first of the tournament. To cap off the game Conner Mowatt scored on an empty net to take a 4-1 victory over the OJHL champs.
The next night Cochrane felt the crunch of the Dryden GM Ice Dogs who blanked the NOJHL champions 3-0.
The first period was scoreless and Jacen Bracko opened the scoring halfway through the second. Mowatt would add another before the frame was over.
It was another tight period in the third and Galbraith found a goal on an empty net to secure win number two for the hometown team.
On Thursday the Ice Dogs took on their competition from the Bill Salonen finals and the North Stars struck first with a goal from Owen Belisle.
In the second period Malcolm Huemmert tied the game up for Dryden but Brendan Gillis got Thunder Bay back on top before the end of the frame. A scoreless third period earned a win for the North Stars but the Dogs finished first in the round robin.
With the semifinal set Wellington took down the North Stars 6-3 to write their ticket to the final. In the final game of the tournament the Dryden GM Ice Dogs struck first with a power play goal from Hamlin early in the frame. Less than 30 second later Wellington tied the game with a goal from Frank Pucci. Mowatt grabbed the Dogs another lead before Zach Uens tied it up at two a piece.
In the second period Ben Evans got the Dukes their first lead of the game before Ted Davis found the back of the net. [pullquote]Junior A hockey is at the forefront in Dryden. The challenge now is to keep it like this. There’s no reason it shouldn’t happen. The Dogs are the best thing we’ve got going for us and we need to celebrate that[/pullquote]Wellington would not finish the period quietly as Bryce Yetman got the Dukes back on top.
In the third period Hamlin got the game even at four a piece before a Dukes power play earned Mitchell Mendonca a goal and the lead.
With a goal from Evans and then an empty net goal from Jackson Arcan the Dukes downed the Dogs 7-4 earning the Dudley Hewitt Cup and trip to the RBC Cup in Chilliwack, B.C.
It was a strong showing by the Dryden GM Ice Dogs at a hard tournament and put the city on the map for a week. Organizer Colleen Oliphant saw all the hard work from so many dedicated volunteers pay off.
“It was amazing. It ran so well and smooth and it was just so great to see the community out. A sold out crowd, we’ve never had that before, I can’t complain, it went better than I ever thought it would be,” said Oliphant. “It was a lot of preparation but it all pulled together nicely and was well worth it seeing the people come out and support the team.”
Oliphant wishes to thank all the volunteers and everyone who supported the team. Dryden GM Ice Dogs president Mike Sveinson saw the tournament as a jumping off point to bigger and better things in the city and for the team.
“The Dudley Hewitt Cup illustrated our larger vision of what Junior A Hockey ought to look like in Dryden. The support was tremendous from sponsors to fans. I hope the community is proud of itself because they earned it,” said Sveinson.
“Junior A hockey is at the forefront in Dryden. The challenge now is to keep it like this. There’s no reason it shouldn’t happen. The Dogs are the best thing we’ve got going for us and we need to celebrate that now, and for as long as we are fortunate enough to have a franchise here.”