By Darren Desaulniers
An all-Ontario matchup opened the round-robin portion of the RBC Cup Saturday, and the Ottawa Jr. Senators took one for the Nation’s Capital with a 2-1 overtime win over the Wellington Dukes.
Jr. Sens coach Martin Dagenais was happy with a victory to open the Junior A national championship being hosted by the Chilliwack Chiefs, especially since the conditions are going to get rougher as the week goes on with temperatures outside approaching 30ºC.
“It’s going to be a different type of hockey because the ice is really, really bad,” Dagenais said of the 5,000 seat Prospera Centre, about 90 minutes southeast of Vancouver.
“It’s really warm inside. It’s super warm outside so we’re going to have to keep it simple. The cute plays are not going to work here. It was very sloppy hockey. We’re going to have to adjust to the ice conditions, but it’s the same for everyone.”
The Central Canada Hockey League champions got a power-play goal 61 seconds into overtime from Finn Evans to defeat the Ontario Junior Hockey League champs and get the tournament off in the right foot.
Evans tipped a Zachary Sallouim shot past Dukes netminder Jonah Capriotti as the Jr. Sens were enjoying their eighth man advantage of the game. They were unsuccessful on their previous seven opportunities.
“I think we dominated most of the game. We had a good start even though the power play wasn’t great. Early on we were trying to be too cute and it wasn’t working for us but we found a way,” Dagenais said.
“The reason we got eight power plays is we had the puck for 75% of the time.”
The Dukes got a power-play goal late in the first period from Frank Pucci to take a 1-0 lead, but Elie Boulerice tied the game for the Jr. Sens at 3:15 of the second when his shot from the right face-off circle found its way between Capriotti’s shoulder and the cross bar.
From there Connor Hicks held the Jr. Sens in the game, but it wasn’t the quantity of saves — The Jr. Sens held a 26-21 advantage in shots — but the quality.
“He was huge to be honest and it was a tough game for him. The last two periods we gave up eight shots but he made at least three or four big saves,” Dagenais said.
“We’re very comfortable with him in net. He’s been a rock for us and that’s not going to change. We wanted to get the first game out of the way and get a W. We did but we know there’s a lot of work ahead and we’re going to have to be better.”
The Jr. Sens will face the host Chiefs Sunday at 10 EST.