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Dolphins face Hawks first round

Dolphins welcome post season 


 Trending in "right direction" gives team confidence for playoffs


 March 9, 2023


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Dorchester Dolphins' captain Dylan Vandersleen (24) leads his team in to the PJHL playoffs, a first round date against the Exeter Hawks. (photo / Rob J. Ross)




By Rob J. Ross 

DORCHESTER, Ont. - For the Dorchester Dolphins the 2022-23 regular season started off and finished strong.

It was the stretch in between that left the junior hockey team stuck floating around a .500 record in the middle of their division standings.

The Dolphins finish fifth in the Yeck Division, with a 20-15-3-1 record (one game cancelled) and without home ice for the opening round of the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) playoffs.

"We went through our ups and downs. We've just started to come back together," Dolphins' GM and head coach Mark Steele said. "Injuries were the most challenging thing to go through this year."

Captain Dylan Vandersleen and veteran goalie Jackson Mailloux topped the Dolphins' list of the numerous injured players who missed games.

After opening the season winning seven of nine games, the Dolphins hit a two month rough match, that included a six game losing streak. However, since the calendar flipped to 2023, the Dolphins are 9-3-2.

"We're trending in the right direction because now we have the team on paper that we put together," said Steele. "We're going in with some good confidence because we have been playing better hockey."

Vandersleen is back and Deklan Jermol has played well in the absence of Mailloux.

"We had some good games and we had some bad games, but at the end of the day we finished in the middle of the pack," Vandersleen said. "Our work ethic is usually there. But I would say turnovers and little things, those small mistakes, hurt us. We have a good squad here and we're looking forward to playoffs. All that matters now are the playoffs."

Dorchester faces the fourth place Exeter Hawks, in a best of seven game series that begins, Friday, March 10, 8 p.m. at Exeter.

The teams split the season series, each winning two games, one each in overtime. The fifth game, scheduled for March 3 was cancelled due to weather.

"It'll come down to who ever can stay out of the penalty box and score on their opportunities," said Steele. "We know who their top line is and they know our top line. It's going to be the depth of each team that's going to take over the series. Hopefully we can shut them down more than the shut us down."

Josh Short led the Dolphins in scoring with 47 points, including a team high 27 goals, eight coming on the power play. Paterson MacNair had 17 goals and a team leading 25 assists. Curtis Nogueira, Nicholas Shearer, both had 32 points and Jordan Daer led the defence with 31 points.

"They're very strong on the puck, their physicality and they'll never go away," said Vandersleen on the challenges the Hawks pose.

Forwards Sam Dupuis and Jack McDonald had 45 and 40 points, respectively, for the Hawks, who finished seven points ahead of the Dolphins in the standings. Hawks defenceman Liam O'Shea had 27 points.

Discipline always figures in playoff outcomes. From the season, the Hawks and Dolphins had equal amount of penalty minutes.

Game two is in Dorchester, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11. Game three at Exeter, March 12

"We need to come out fast. Have a good start," said Vandersleeen. "Exeter has a loud barn, so we have to keep their fans quiet."

Dorchester completed the regular season with a 4-0 silencing of Petrolia, March 5 in home ice.

Short had two goals and Brayden Smith and Tage Gallant, one each. MacNair picked up two assists. Jeremy Hardeman made 31 saves for the Dorchester teen's first career junior shutout.






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