Date:  Source: OJHL Wellington Dukes

After an outstanding first five games of the OJHL Northeast Conference Quarterfinal series between the Wellington Dukes and Pickering Panthers, both teams put their proverbial noses to the grindstone and pushed hard to entertain fans from both cities. Here's the breakdown from Games 6 and 7.

Poulias plays hero in Game 6 overtime

In a game that could have gone either way, Andrew Poulias sent the Panthers to Game 7 with the overtime winning goal, giving Pickering an emotional 5-4 victory.

The Panthers played a stellar first period defensively, taking an early lead on a Toby Cooper goal that developed from a Wellington turnover in their own end. But, the Dukes were able to stick with the game and Jackson Arcan eventually tied it in the final minute of the frame after pulling the puck out of a scrum, shifting to the middle of the zone and backhanded a shot that fooled Ethan Langevin. Teddy McGeen and Andrew Rinaldi assisted.

The second stanza was busy scoring-wise, with the lead changing hands to the Dukes. Mitch Mendonca recovered after missing an open net, rolled out to the slot and rifled a shot past Langevin for a 2-1 Dukes advantage. The third goal of the series for Mendonca was assisted by Colin Doyle and Ben Evans. Pickering got that goal back a minute later after Dukes goalie Tyler Richardson made a huge save off Jacob Didanielli, Mitchell Doyle jammed a loose puck into the net to tie the game at two-all. The even score lasted all of a minute and 18 seconds. On an odd-man rush, Evans made a slick pass on the backdoor to Daniel Panetta, who buried it into the open side to push the Dukes back ahead by one. Dawson Ellis added a second helper on the go-ahead tally, Panetta's first career OJHL playoff goal. The lead almost lasted all the way through to the end of the middle frame, until Dustyn McFaul blasted a drop feed from Cooper just inside the Wellington blueline off the rush and connected top corner over Richardson's left shoulder to put the two teams on even terms again.

Two more goals just over two minutes apart in period three from Josh Argier and Declan Carlile (a ricochet off the end glass unassisted) sent the game to overtime with both teams going back and forth and trading chances. Opportunities came from both sides in the fourth period, including on a Pickering powerplay, but nobody was able to capitalize until with just over eight minutes to play. Davis Teigan-Katsumi broke free from a check, beat a Dukes defender wide, threw the puck across the crease and hit Poulias streaking through the middle, who made no mistake in beating Richardson upstairs for the win. Despite the loss, Wellington did outshoot Pickering 45-43. A supremely entertaining game was very much appreciated by the nearly-800 fans in attendance at the Pickering Recreation Complex, as the Panthers forced their first Game 7 in 11 years.

Fast start propels Dukes to series win

The Dukes got a strong start and an even better finish in Game 7 to finally dispatch of the pesky Panthers by a 6-2 score.

Pickering tried to play an ultra defensive style in the early going, but the Dukes speed left them back on their heels. Jackson Arcan followed up on his own rebound after some pretty passing from Teddy McGeen and Andrew Rinaldi to pot his second of the series and his first of two on the night just 2:43 in the contest. The Dukes held the one-goal lead until the final minute of the period, when Dawson Ellis found some daylight ahead of him after a turnover by the Panthers at their defensive blueline and bumped the lead to 2-0 heading into the intermission break. The unassisted tally came with just 13 seconds left in the first.

Andrew Poulias cracked open Pickering's scoring just 53 seconds into the second frame after a great set-up from Andrew Hughes, but the Dukes shut the Panthers down swiftly after that and got a fortunate bounce to earn the eventual game and series winner. Arcan chased his own dump in into Pickering's zone, beat a Panther to it and threw the puck from behind the icing line and glanced it off Ethan Langevin's stick and in from Zach Uens and Mason Snell. Rinaldi jumped in with his third of the playoffs less than two minutes later and upped the Dukes advantage to three before the end of the frame, with assistance from Arcan and McGeen.

The veteran Hughes would notch Pickering's final goal of the season with a Dukes defender on his back exactly two minutes into period three, but it was all Dukes after that. Ben Evans scored on a spin around shot in the crease after some yeoman's work from rookies Jeff Burridge and Graeme -McCrory to make it 5-2 at 7:28 and continued to keep the pressure up on the Panthers. David Demarinis on the Pickering bench made a nothing-to-lose gamble by pulling his goaltender with five minutes left that didn't pay off. With Langevin of the ice, 15-year old rookie AP Isaac Langdon buried his first career OJHL goal into an empty net from Daniel Panetta to salt away the win and finally put the Panthers to rest. Wellington outshot Pickering 19-9 in the final frame for a lopsided 41-18 total.

In the end, Pickering deserves full credit for pushing the Dukes to the brink, but in the end, Wellington simply had too many horses to get a leg up and wear down the determined Panthers. With the series victory, their third straight first round triumph, Wellington moves on to face the Newmarket Hurricanes, who dispatched of the Markham Royals in six competitive games in their first round series. Game 1 goes Friday night at 7:30 at the Duke Dome, which is sure to be packed once again.