By Jason LaRose, Hockey Canada
CHILLIWACK, B.C. – Jonah Capriotti was absolutely spectacular in a 50-save performance, backstopping the Wellington Dukes (OJHL) into the championship game at the 2018 RBC Cup with a 2-1 semifinal win over the previously-unbeaten Wenatchee Wild (BCHL) on Saturday afternoon.
The Dukes are into the national final for the first time in franchise history after falling in the final four in each of their first two trips to Canada’s National Junior A Championship, in 2003 and 2011.
They will face either the Chilliwack Chiefs or Ottawa Jr. Senators in the final Sunday (4 p.m. PT, TSN).
Daniel Panetta provided the offensive heroics for Wellington, scoring the game-winning goal with 13:04 to go. With the Wild pressing for the go-ahead marker, Panetta raced the other way on a two-on-one with Frank Pucci and redirected a pass five-hole on Wenatchee goaltender Austin Park.
The Dukes opened the scoring late in the first period, against the flow of play.
Declan Carlile grabbed a rebound off Capriotti and sprung Bryce Yetman, who made no mistake on the breakaway, going off the post and in over the glove of Park on just the second Wellington shot.
Yetman had a chance to double the advantage early in the second period when he broke in on a shorthanded breakaway, but Park made a toe save to keep it a one-goal game.
Zak Galambos finally solved Capriotti midway through the middle frame, cruising through the high slot and letting go a wrist shot that worked its way through a maze of bodies and in to send the game to the second intermission tied 1-1, despite the Wild holding a 35-9 advantage in shots.
Wenatchee pressed after the Panetta goal and thought they had pulled even with just over eight minutes left, but a bounce off a Wellington stick in the crease never fully crossed the goal-line and it remained a 2-1 game.
Capriotti did the rest, making 16 of his 50 saves in the third period to send the Dukes to Sunday.
It is the second time in three years the fourth-place team has beaten the top seed in the semifinals, and just the third time in the last 12; Lloydminster beat Trenton in 2016, and Woodstock edged Humboldt in overtime in 2012.
Photo credit: Dave Holland/Hockey Canada Images