Dorchester tops the PJHL Yeck Division on pace for 32 wins overcoming change of
both goalies and challenges with the North Middlesex Stars
Monday, November 26, 2018
By Rob J. Ross
DORCHESTER - The Dorchester Dolphins are in a good spot.
At the mid point of the regular season the Dolphins lead the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) Yeck Division with a 16-4-0-0 record.
"First place in the division you have to be thrilled about that. I'm very happy on the way the season has gone so far," Dolphins' GM Bruce Schruder said. "The coaches (head coach Mark Steele) have done a tremendous job. I'm happy with the progress we have made. The team is starting to come together and buy into coach Steele's system."
Expectations are high for a team that averages 30 wins per season and has made the Yeck final in each of its six seasons in the league, winning three times.
"The first part of the season in some games we were really slow out of the gate. (Recent wins over Thames ford and Lambeth) we were quick out of the gate. We were close to playing a full 60 minute game. If we decide to play a 60-minute game there are few teams that will beat us. We can be very tough to play against because we are so deep."
Dylan Buckholz, Nolan Blewett and Ryan Root are the Dolphins' top scoring line. Seven other forwards and four defenceman have at least 10 points, including players who developed through Dorchester minor hockey.
"All of the Dorchester kids contribute on a game by game basis which is really impressive," praises Schruder. "We gave the Dorchester kids a chance to play and they have grasp the chance and proved that they belong. They have been pleasant surprises, the way they have developed and the way they have been able to contribute."
Alex Pettipiece leads the Dorchester rookies with five goals and 11 assists. Rookie defenceman Aidan Reid, from Springfield, has four goals and 11 assists, one point behind veteran blueliner James Newland.
"We're really happy with the mix we have on the team with veterans and rookies," said Schruder.
Scoring goals hasn't been a problem for the Dolphins who have already potted 100 pucks as a team. Keeping the rubber disc from inside of their net, however, has been an issue, although the Dolphins have been battling the Exeter Hawks for the lowest goal-against average.
Liam McCarthy and Matt Waller have replaced Ryan Murray and Caleb Pinsonneault, the Dolphins' two goalies at the start of the regular season.
"We needed more consistency in our goaltending. There were games where we battled back, to tie the game or even go ahead, but on the next shift we allowed a bad goal," Schruder said. "If we want to go deep into the playoffs, we need our goaltender to make that save. We needed more consistency for the goaltending position and we definitely have it now."
Waller returns to Dorchester after a season with the Lambeth Lancers and McCarthy was acquired from the North Middlesex Stars. Pinsonneault was traded to Exeter, while Murray found new home with the Norwich Merchants, in the PJHL Doherty division.
"We've been watching Liam for a couple of years and we've always been impressed. He's a big goaltender but he's very talented and athletic," said Schruder of the 17-year old Strathroy native. "He'll be our starting goaltender for at least the next three years."
Both of the Dolphins' home losses were to McCarthy while he was in net for North Middlesex. Dorchester suffered road defeats at Thamesford and Exeter.
Schruder would like to see an improvement in special teams. Both the Dolphins' power play and penalty kill sit mid pack in the division.
"Special teams are so critical. We have to score. I've noticed somewhat of an improvement but there is always room to improve. Given the talent on our team there's no reason why we shouldn't have the top power play in the league," Schruder said. "The coaches know how important it is and have been concentrating on special teams in practice."
The Dolphins are leading the Yeck, but it is no time to relax with 20 games still remaining.
"Every team that comes into Dorchester, they're going to be gunning for us. They want to knock us off," Schruder said. "We can't take any nights off. We have to play a full 60. When we play a full 60, we're hard to beat."
The Dolphins have two meetings against both North Middlesex and the Thamesford Trojans and will play the Exeter Hawks three times in their final seven games.
Since their season opener the Dolphins have added forward Ryan Roestel, defenceman Colin Capstick and most recently Griffen Sinden.
The six-foot two 17-year old from Tillsonburg played two seasons with the Tillsonburg Hurricanes of the Greater Metro Junior A (GMHL), producing 49 goals and 82 assists over 52 games.
"He's a young, speedy, skilled forward with soft hands and has consistently out the puck in the net," said Schruder.
Sinden drew an assist in his Dolphins' debut, a 6-1 win at Mt. Brydges, November 23rd.
Buckholz scored twice while defenceman Nick Whitworth picked up three assists. Root had a goal and assist on both Buckholtz' goals. James Newland and Turner Balasin also bulged the twine.
Note: North Middlesex beat Dorchester for a third time, 4-1, at home on November 25th, beating their former goalie. The teams meet again in Parkhill, January 6th and 20th.