(Dalton Bancroft is leading the Trenton Golden Hawks offensively with 14 points through six games. Photo by Shawn Muir/OJHL Images)
Story by Jeff Gard
The Trenton Golden Hawks won the first game of the Hasty P’s Challenge Cup series against the Wellington Dukes and remain undefeated through six games this Ontario Junior Hockey League season.
Four straight goals in the third period to close out the game lifted the Golden Hawks (6-0-0-0) to a 7-4 victory over the Dukes (3-3-0-1) at Lehigh Arena in Wellington.
First introduced as an eight-game exhibition series a year ago with the OJHL shut down, this year’s edition features regular season games between the two clubs with the team with the most points at end of the season’s head-to-head match-ups capturing the Hasty P’s Cup.
Rookies and veterans alike know the stakes are raised when Wellington and Trenton teams meet on the ice.
“It’s pretty special to play in a rivalry as big as Trenton and Wellington, especially with the Hasty P coming in last year and winning that and now it coming back this year,” said 20-year-old co-captain Dalton Bancroft, who scored twice for the Golden Hawks in Friday’s win. “There’s always a lot of people in the stands so it’s always a big game to get up for. There’s always so much competition between the two teams. (Hasty P) just adds a little more spice to the regular match-ups and it’s definitely something worth playing for and makes the regular season games against Wellington a bit more special.”
Ethan Quick is a 16-year-old rookie forward with the Dukes, but growing up in Trenton he attended Golden Hawks games on a weekly basis if he wasn’t playing his minor hockey games.
“I would go to almost every Trenton game and when I would come to the games against Wellington the energy was so much better than a regular game,” Quick said. “I noticed the crowd is more into it than ever. Everyone’s throwing their body more, a goal means more than ever. Just playing in the game means everything to the guys.”
Quick was excited Friday night to get his first “taste of it on the other side and on the ice.” He said Dukes players were discussing in advance the battle that would be on the ice against the Golden Hawks.
Wellington led by a goal four times in the contest on two goals from captain Emmet Piece and singles from Jonathan Balah and Jacob Vreugdenhil, who also had two assists, before Trenton pulled away in the third period.
Bancroft’s goals for the Golden Hawks tied the game 1-1 and 2-2 while Jake LaVille also scored twice – the 3-3 tying goal and 5-4 go-ahead marker.
Aiden McIntosh, who tied the game 4-4 on a power play, Matthew Cato and Stephen McDonald, into an empty net, also scored for Trenton while Jake Campbell drew four assists.
Matt Dunsmoor of the Dukes was the busier of the two goaltenders as he was credited with 39 saves in a losing cause as Trenton outshot Wellington 45-18. Ethan Taylor made 14 saves in recording the win.
It was the first meaningful game between the Dukes and Golden Hawks since 2020. The two clubs were set to meet in the OJHL playoffs that year before the series was postponed and ultimately cancelled due to the growing COVID-19 concerns.
“We had a really special group and so did Wellington,” Bancroft said. “I know a lot of people were looking forward to that playoff series. I really wish we could’ve got that group back together and finished out that series.”
Last year’s Hasty P’s exhibition series was a great opportunity for the players to return to game action, but it wasn’t the same without body contact and spectators.
“It meant a lot to win, but it just wasn’t the same atmosphere as getting to play in front of big crowds whether it was in Wellington or Trenton,” Bancroft, who previously played 18 games for the Dukes as well, said. “To play in this rivalry for going on four years now is pretty special and just to see the new players coming through is special as well.”
Bancroft is off to a blazing start this 2021-22 campaign with four goals and 10 assists through six games with the Golden Hawks. He credits strong summer training with Jeremy Benoit as a key to early success, but he was also fortunate to play in meaningful games last season.
Around the start of 2021, Bancroft headed east to join Trenton teammates Griffen Fox and Marko Jakovljevic with the Amherst Ramblers of the Maritime Hockey League.
“It made it a lot better to have guys you know going in there for a fresh start, being able to play the extra three or four months that we were down there, really really helped our game,” Bancroft said. “I think a lot of people who were fortunate enough to go there and find a spot to play would really praise the league and what we were able to do last year.”
Fox and Jakovljevic had arrived to Amherst shortly before Bancroft. Golden Hawks coach and general manager Peter Goulet gave players the option of a trade if they they desired.
“One of the main things for me was I really wanted to play,” Bancroft said. “I told Pete I would love to go, but as long as I get to come back the following year. Those extra games helped us out for this year, for sure.”
Now back in the OJHL, Bancroft is pleased by the great start for the Golden Hawks, but isn’t surprised.
“Our group gelled together pretty quick. It’s hard for a lot of teams at the start of the year because there’s so many moving parts, but our guys did a good job of banding together and doing what needs to be done to get the wins early,” he said. “I’m proud of the boys and what we’ve accomplished so far and just keep the ball rolling and hopefully we have a really great season.”
Trenton is back in action Saturday evening with a road game scheduled against the Toronto Patriots while Wellington hosts the Lindsay Muskies (3-3-0-1) on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
Game 2 of the Hasty P’s Challenge Cup between the Dukes and Golden Hawks is set for Sunday, Oct. 31 at 2:30 p.m. in Wellington. Game 3, the first of the series in Trenton, will be Friday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m.
TRENTON 7 WELLINGTON 4
WEL Jonathan Balah (Dostaler, Whittaker) 3:16
TRE Dalton Bancroft (Campbell, McIntosh) 0:26
WEL Emmet Pierce (Schaly, Vreugdenhil) 1:10
TRE Bancroft 2 (Campbell) 3:44
WEL Pierce 2 (Whittaker, Vreugdenhil) 8:10
TRE Jake LaVille (Jameison, Oikle) 18:23
WEL Jacob Vreugdenhil (Poot) 0:54
TRE Aiden McIntosh (McDonald, Campbell) 7:16 PPG
TRE LaVille 2 (Jameison, McDonald) 7:53
TRE Matthew Cato (Justin Mauro, Devin Mauro) 17:25
TRE Stephen McDonald (Campbell) 18:32 EN