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Posted: February 16th, 2013 @ 5:08pm
First in a daily series that recalls the story of the 1962-63 Kingston Frontenacs, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of their Eastern Professional Hockey League championship season:
The home stretch begins
As January turned into February, 1963, the fortunes of the Kingston Frontenacs were not promising. The youthful farm team of the Boston Bruins had an eight-game unbeaten string snapped by two embarrassing defeats at the hands of the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, whose own nine-game winning streak had propelled them seven points ahead of Kingston in the race to finish first.
Though Jeannot Gilbert and Don Blackburn begin the month 1-2 in league scoring, Wayne Connelly, the promising young forward who spent the previous season in the NHL with Boston, had a broken ankle. At a time when teams seldom dressed five defencemen - and rarely used that many - Kingston began the month with one of theirs, Wayne Schultz, receiving therapy for an injured knee, leaving Ken Stephanson, Whitey Stapleton and Harry Sinden to carry double duty, with forward Dick Cherry available if need be. The local newspaper was lamenting the "lackadaisical" play of Cliff Pennington, dispatched by the parent club in Boston to Kingston in January, presumably for playing that way in the NHL.
A terrible fire destroyed the J.L. Edwards Ford dealership at Princess and Nelson streets the night before the first Sunday hockey game was ever played in Kingston, around the corner from what was then widely known as the Community Centre on the afternoon of February 3. Kingston defeated Sudbury 5-2, with local junior B goalie Kurt Demmler playing the final two periods for Sudbury when Wolves goalie Gerry Cheevers could not continue due to injury. The Whig-Standard reported that Demmler, 18 and a student at Collins Bay High School, was home studying when the call came to get to the arena and get dressed.
The next week ended with interlocking wins over International Hockey League teams in Omaha and Minneapolis, 2-1 and 6-1, respectively, "our best two-game effort in along time," said playing assistant coach Harry Sinden. The wins moved Kingston to within two points of Hull-Ottawa. Gilbert had a five-point week to stretch his lead atop the league scoring race to four points over Murray Hall of St. Louis.
Pennington began to come to life, with six points in weekend wins over St. Louis and Sudbury and two goals the following weekend.
In Hull, the Canadiens roster was in flux. The parent club in Montreal sent goaltender Cesare Maniago to Quebec of the American Hockey League but returned Red Berenson. It didn't help Hull-Ottawa avoid a 6-1 defeat at Sudbury on February 13 that, combined with a 5-3 Kingston win that night over St. Louis, put the Frontenacs back into a first-place tie.
Fifty years ago tonight, Friday, February 15, 1963
Kingston beats the Wolves in Sudbury 6-2, keeping pace with Hull-Ottawa, which beat St. Louis 4-2. Trailing 2-1 in the second period, Kingston scored four unanswered goals in the third as goalkeeper Bruce Gamble makes 42 saves.
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