Hunter Jones off to a strong season start in the Peterborough Petes net

Hunter Jones off to a strong season start in the Peterborough Petes\ net
Barrett Hayton takes over as OHL gets win in Canada-Russia Series
Barrett Hayton set up one goal before scoring a highlight-reel one of his own as Team OHL downed Russia 3-1 on Thursday.

Isaac Ratcliffe opened the scoring 4:55 into the game before MacKenzie Entwistle made it 2-0 for the Ontario Hockey League squad on a penalty shot at 18:05 of the first.

Pavel Shen put Russia on the board in the last minute of the first, but OHL netminder Mike DiPietro stopped everything the rest of the way.

Hayton, the No. 5 overall pick by Arizona at the 2018 NHL draft, added an insurance goal midway through the second on a one-man rush. The 20-year-old centre crossed the blue line and toe dragged the puck past defenceman Artyom Volkov before deking to the backhand an lifting the it over a sprawled-out Daniil Tarasov in the Russian net.

The win gives the Canadian Hockey league a 2-1-0 record in the six-game Canada Russia Series after the Western Hockey League team split the first two games in B.C.

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Coming off a rookie season where he appeared in just 15 games with less than flattering statistics perhaps the biggest question facing the team, with the graduation of Dylan Wells to the pros, was in goal.

More than one-quarter of the way into the season its been the least of the clubs concerns. Jones ranks second in the OHL in wins (11) and save percentage (.926), third in goals against average (2.54) for goalies with 10 or more games and leads all goalies in minutes played (1,016) and saves (535).

Its all added up to a selection by Hockey Canada to Team OHLs roster for Mondays CIBC Canada-Russia Series game at Oshawas Tribute Communities Centre. The series is used to evaluate potential players for Canadas world junior team. Before that happens, the Petes will host the Hamilton Bulldogs 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Memorial Centre.

Jones has been on Hockey Canadas radar before. He participated in both the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the World Junior A Hockey Challenge two years ago.

But given his lack of OHL experience and last years statistics – a 3-9 record with a 5.14 GAA and .866 save percentage – Jones couldnt be blamed for not making the Canada-Russia Series one of his pre-season goals.

\”It wasnt really a big goal of mine to play in the Canada-Russia Series,\” said Jones. \”I wanted to be involved in the CHL Top Prospects game for sure and I wanted to come into the season giving my team a chance to win every night. I just came in with that attitude and started having a lot of success early on in the season. I started getting rewarded with the CHL Goalie of the Week Award. That boosted my confidence a little bit and I just kept feeling the puck throughout the games. I just kept getting rewarded as the games have gone on.

\”I wasnt expecting it at all but I think I deserve it with all the work I put in over the summer and the success Im having early on in the season. I think both Declan and I deserve it.\”

Petes associate coach Andrew Verner suggested he might be a candidate but Jones said he didnt give it a lot of thought. He was playing video games at home prior to practice the day of the announcement when Verner texted confirmation of his selection.

\”I knew there were some other big goalies in the league like Michael DiPietro and Matthew Villalta so I didnt think Id be in the conversation,\” said Jones. \”Just knowing its a stepping stone for the world junior team is exciting. I want to play on that team one day. Im not sure it will be this year or not, its not a main goal of mine, but it would obviously be a huge accomplishment if that happened. To hear that news in my 18-year-old year is pretty surreal. Im just excited to be a part of it.\”

\”Im not sure if Ill get into the net but I think they just want to see the atmosphere out there with a lot of the elite players in the OHL and Russia. It will be a cool moment.\”

Because his birthday falls after Sept. 15 he wasnt eligible for the NHL Entry Draft until June of 2019. Its probably worked out best for his draft status and hes just hoping to continue to play well.

\”Its good with all the success Im having and Im pleased were winning as a team as a whole. Its a lot better atmosphere than it was last year in the room. The mindset we have as a team is a lot better and its a lot more team-based. I think were just taking it day-by-day. When we were on a little bit of a losing slide, as we were two weeks ago, we just need to pick each other up and get back to our focus and our game plan. I have to go in every night and give our team a chance to win.\”