Morning-time hockey perks up the Kingston Frontenacs.
Playing in school day promotional games has been agreeable in past seasons for the Frontenacs and Wednesday’s morning affair against the Ottawa 67’s was no different.
The Frontenacs closed out a good month of November with a 4-1 victory before 3,514, the majority of those school-age children who spiked the volume throughout the Ontario Hockey League game.
The victory moved the Frontenacs into a tie for first in the Eastern Conference with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
“Everyone is confident on the team. We are playing Jay’s system [head coach Jay Varady] right,” goaltender Jeremy Helvig, who dropped his goals-against average to 2.65 with a 35-save effort, said.
Nathan Dunkley, Matt Hotchkiss, Sergey Popov and Ted Nichol scored. Jason Robertson assisted on three of the goals.
“We are playing great defence and we are scoring goals. All that makes for a great November,” Helvig said.
The Frontenacs won eight of 12 games in November and picked up points in two other games for a total of 18 points gained out of a possible 24, a .750 percentage.
They were all much improved from their last effort against Ottawa, a 4-2 loss on Nov. 19.
“I thought we established a pretty good identity, mostly by managing the puck,” Varady said. “We had good momentum in the first and second and we were able to close it out.”
Helvig added that “we played hard, we frustrated them.”
While the Robertson, Dunkley and Linus Nyman line has been terrific in November, the depth the Frontenacs have up front was again on display against Ottawa.
Hotchkiss scored his first game-winning goal for the Frontenacs since coming over from Guelph in a trade — he has three goals in seven games in a Kingston uniform — and Popov’s fifth of the season opened up the three-goal spread that Ottawa couldn’t close.
“Goals from those guys are huge. When all our lines up front contribute, we are a much better team,” Varady said.
Robertson feels November has steeled the team for the way it needs to play.
“The mentality of everyone in the locker room and the work ethic has been up to par recently and we want to keep it that way,” said Robertson, adding that 26 games into the 68-game schedule, the Frontenacs have grown into the systems introduced by coach Varady. “Everyone has bought into the system and knows their role. Everyone can adjust to any details like Jay says. It’s just a really good situation and we want to keep rolling.”
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