DHC champs have a Soo side

May 4, 2014

It was an all-Ontario Jr. Hockey League final for the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Central Canada championship.

Coached by Sault Ste. Marie native Jason Fortier, Toronto Lakeshore Patriots edged Wellington Dukes 2-1 in Saturday’s title tilt.

Toronto Lakeshore had gained entry into the DHC playdowns as OJHL champions while Wellington was the host entry.

Wellington is coached by Marty Abrams, a former goalie and later a head coach with the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds.

Wellington also features a pair of Sault Ste. Marie area products in forward-defenceman Chad Thibodeau and defenceman Kyle Paat. Both are 1993 birth-year players.

Thibodeau previously skated in the OHL with Soo Greyhounds and Sudbury Wolves.

Paat began his junior career with the Blind River Beavers of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

As for the DHC playdowns, also competing at the four-team event were the NOJHL champion Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and the Superior International Jr. Hockey League champion Fort Frances Lakers.

Kirkland Lake — which defeated Soo Thunderbirds in a six-game final for the NOJHL championship — had a disappointing record of 0-3 during the DHC round-robin and failed to qualify for the playoff round.

Fort Frances, which is coached by former Lake Superior State University Lakers forward Wayne Strachan, lost to eventual-champion Toronto Lakeshore in the semi-finals.

In the Toronto Lakeshore-Wellington championship match, a goal by Rory Bell midway through the third period was the difference as the Fortier-coached Patriots edged the Dukes before a standing-room only crowd of more than 1,500 at Essroc Arena in Wellington.

The 39-year old Fortier played pro hockey in Germany before returning home to further his education and suit up with the Sault College Cougars back in 1999. He is a veteran OJHL coach, having been with the Vaughan Vipers before joining Toronto Lakeshore.

With its DHC triumph, Toronto Lakeshore now moves on the RBC Cup national championships, which are slated for May 10-18 in Vernon, B.C.

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