The Kingston Frontenacs were finally back on home ice after a four-game road stand that saw the team go 2-1-0-1 and gain some needed momentum and confidence going into the remaining ⅔ of the season.
The Central Division Sudbury Wolves and Quinton Byfield visited the Leon’s Centre on Friday night for the first of four straight at home for Kingston. For the third straight game, Kingston would come away a win holding on to a 5-3 victory. It also marked the fourth straight game the Frontenacs picked up a point.
Sudbury entered the game having scored 26 goals in the last five games with a high-octane offense that leads the OHL with 107. The issue for the Wolves, in a fight for the Central Division lead with Barrie, is that they’ve also given up 92 goals. Only five teams had given up more goals in the league. With Kingston being one of those teams it would be vital for coach Kurtis Foster’s team to continue to employ the structure they have been playing with over a three-game point streak that saw them go 2-0-0-1 coming in.
Sudbury’s Quinton Byfield, projected as a top pick in the 2020 NHL draft, came into the game on a 10-game point-streak collecting six goals and eighteen points over the stretch. Byfield scored in Kingston last year in a 4-1 loss to the Frontenacs on Oct. 26, 2018.
Zayde Wisdom had been on a hot stretch for Kingston collecting four goals and five points during a four-game streak himself. Wisdom leads the team with 17 points on 13 goals and continues to be force upfront in the Kingston attack playing on a line with Shane Wright and Dustin Hutton. “It helps big time, playing with these two guys, they’re phenomenal players and we’ve been clicking right away ever since we got put together so I’m really enjoying it and we’re gelling,” said Hutton on his new linemates.
After a solid performance in Peterborough last night’s 4-3 SO win, Ryan Dugas got some rest as Christian Propp got the start in net for Kingston. Christian Purboo, tied for third in OHL wins (11) was in goal for Sudbury. Greater Kingston minor hockey product and Gananoque, ON native Nolan Hutcheson, had seven goals and fourteen points in 23 games entering the matchup in his hometown.
The front half of the first period was choppy with plenty of stoppages and icings as the teams were not allowing much through the neutral zones with shots being limited 4-3 in favor of Sudbury 11 minutes in. Kingston didn’t off as good as Foster would have liked. “I didn’t think we had a great start, didn’t think we had our legs early, but thankfully they didn’t need it,” he said after the game. However, for the third consecutive game, the Frontenacs got out to the 1-0 lead on a Nick Wong tally.
Francesco Arcuri made a nice play for the assist after a turnover at the Wolves blueline and broke across the ice stretching the Sudbury goaltender out before moving the puck back to Wong for a tap-in goal at 13:03. It was his seventh of the year with Luke Drewitt also picking up a helper. Foster said the first goal got them confidence and made them realize they are in the game after a slow start.
Less than two minutes later, Kingston would go up by two but not before some fireworks. After a huge hit on Chase Stillman by Kingston rookie defenseman Braden Hache, the Frontencas went on the powerplay when Kingston product Nolan Hutcheson received an instigator penalty for challenging Hache to fight after the legal check. “He (Hache)stepped up to the plate, you’re not going to find many better fights than that in the league anymore,” said coach Foster. Hache at 6’2″, 180 lb, plays a physical game and knows with his style it was only a matter of time. “It was an older guy, I felt I stood my own. A lot of adrenaline, I knew it was going to happen at some point, but it was good to get that first one out. It was good to fire the boys up,” Hache said describing the play.
With the man-advantage, Shane Wright made them pay when he stuffed a puck past Purboo after a shot hit the post for his seventh goal putting Kingston up 2-0 at the 15:11 mark. Zayde Wisdom extended his point streak to five games with an assist while Jakob Brahaney also drew an assist, tying him for the team lead with Frasca.
With Jake Murray in the box for crosschecking, Sudbury would get the game back to 2-1 with a power-play goal at 18:29 on a goal by Shane Bulitka as the Wolves tried to keep the game close.
The second period, much like the first, started out a little bit choppy and Kingston could not get a goal on their third power play of the game at 5:40 though they had some good zone possession with three shots on goal. Nick Wong made a great play around a Wolves defender and went in on the Sudbury goal but was stopped by Purboo. Kingston held a healthy lead in shots during the first 10 minutes of the period with a 7-2 edge. Zayde Wisdom had a great chance on a mini-break nine minutes in off a great rush by the power forward.
Kingston would continue to puck pucks on net and go to the crease and at 13:10 they would be rewarded with the 3-1 insurance goal. Wright was the benefactor of the crease crash and was able to get a close rebound past Purboo after the goalie made three successive saves. His second of the night and eighth goal also marked his league-leading 63rd shot on goal amongst OHL rookies. Hutton continued his strong play with an assist. He has points now in four straight (10 pts in 13 games since joining Kingston) and Wisdom added to his team-leading point total with a helper as well.
Christian Propp, playing in his second game since his arrival from Soo Greyhounds, was called upon a couple of times in the period and stood his ground, especially on an excellent 10-bell save with six minutes left in the period though Kingston was pushing the offence with an 11-5 lead in shots in the opening 15 minutes of the second.
Kingston would get another opportunity with the man-advantage with Byfield in the box at 17:15, but the Sudbury penalty-killing units held strong not allowing any shots to keep the game within striking distance down two goals heading into the final frame.
The Frontenacs came out quick in the third period making it 4-1 just 2:24 in on a Lucas Rowe goal giving the team some breathing room for the duration of the game. His fifth of the year turned out as the game-winning goal when Sudbury was able to get a couple of goals from David Levin at 11:44 and Jack Thompson at 17:40 drawing the Wolves to within one goal at 4-3.
With Sudbury pressing for the equalizer and pulling their goaltender, Wisdom was able to seal the game with an empty-net goal for his 13th of the year and team-leading 20th point ending the game 5-3 and Brahaney’s assist put him into the team lead for assists with 12.
Shane Wright was named the first star with two goals. The second star went to the strong goaltending of Christian Propp making 29 saves and Zayde Wisdom’s 1G, 2A night earned him the third star.
With both goalies playing well in the last five games, it has given Foster the confidence to go to either and he commented, “It’s nice to have that decision where you need to figure out who to play.” Hutton also said after the game “It was a huge win, we’re really happy in the room, the boys are rolling so we’re just hoping to keep it going into Sunday.”
Kingston plays next on Sunday afternoon at 2 PM as they host the Mississauga Steelheads in an important game. The Steelheads sit in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and Kingston will be looking to overtake them with a continued strong effort of games. “It gives us some incentive for Sunday to keep the (winning) streak going.”