Gaels or Frontenacs? Kingston sports fans have a choice to make


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Friday evening looks to be Kingston sports fans’ ultimate scheduling dilemma.


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Do they watch the Queen’s Gaels football game at Richardson Stadium or the Ontario Hockey League home opener of the Kingston Frontenacs at the Leon’s Centre?

The Gaels (3-0) meet the Guelph Gryphons (1-1) in Ontario University Athletics play that kicks off at 6 p.m., while the Frontenacs host the Ottawa 67’s in a 7 p.m. puck drop.

After being starved from watching live sports for almost 19 months in the Limestone City due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local sports fans will have a tough choice to make between the pigskin and the puck.

The Gaels’ home game on Sept. 25 against the Ottawa Gee-Gees was the first in 706 days at Richardson Stadium, and the Frontenacs’ game Friday will be the team’s first regular-season game in 551 days.

Making the choice even harder is that after years of ups and downs, both teams appear to be ready to achieve some success in 2021-22, with both being nationally ranked.

The Gaels are ranked sixth in U Sports rankings, and the Frontenacs, without having played a single meaningful game, are ranked fourth in the Canadian Hockey League and first in the OHL.

Queen’s has its capacity at Richardson Stadium capped at 7,000 spectators. The Frontenacs will be able to play in front of just under 2,800 fans, half-capacity at the Leon’s Centre.

Tickets are still available for both games.

“It’s going to be great to see fans back and cheering us on,” Frontenacs star forward Shane Wright said. “We have a good group of guys this year.”


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Wright said the Frontenacs are solid at all positions and want to win a championship for the city.

“We believe we can achieve it this year,” the No. 1-ranked prospect for the 2022 National Hockey League Entry Draft said.

Frontenacs coach Luca Caputi said it’s good that sports fans in Kingston have choices.

“It’s fun to have options as we haven’t had many lately,” he said. “Players realize how much they missed the game as well.

“We understand the luxury of playing a game like hockey. I’m sure there will be lots of emotion and adrenalin on Friday night.”

Gaels head coach Steve Snyder said at his weekly media availability that conflicted fans should choose the football game.

“Football is a pretty short window, and (fans are) able to get outdoors and enjoy one of three regular-season home games,” he said. “There’s such a premium on home games and they’re such a great event. There will be plenty of time in the winter to go downtown and catch a great hockey game, but right now it’s fall, it’s Thanksgiving, which is a football holiday throughout North America, so I would say get out to Richardson and enjoy a very physical, good football game.

“It’s going to be a very difficult game, very challenging game. Guelph has one of the more talented physical rosters in the OUA. It’s two football teams that are respected in the conference, so there’s a lot on the line. I think it’ll be an absolute battle.

“The way we see it (is) we’re still an underdog and we have a lot to prove and the only way we’re going to play at the highest level and come out victorious is if we’re really aggressive.”


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Caputi said the Frontenacs have strength at every position this season.

Kingston has 25 players on its roster with 15 forwards, seven defencemen and three goaltenders.

“There will be good competition for playing time. The 20 guys that give us the best chance to win will dress,” Caputi said.

Kingston Frontenacs head coach Luca Caputi on the ice at practice at the Leon’s Centre on Wednesday.
Kingston Frontenacs head coach Luca Caputi on the ice at practice at the Leon’s Centre on Wednesday. Photo by Ian MacAlpine /Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

Players to watch will be goaltender Leevi Merilainen, 19, who was selected as a first-round pick (48th overall) in the 2021 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft and was a third-round selection (71st overall) by the Ottawa Senators in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

On defence, veteran Jake Murray, 19, overager Lucas Peric and 18-year-old Braden Hache, a 2021 seventh-round pick of the Florida Panthers, should see a lot of ice time.

Wright will lead Kingston’s forward ranks and could lead the league in scoring. Also counted on to contribute offensively will be Wright’s linemate from 2019-20, Martin Chromiak, as well as overage forwards Lucas Edmonds and Jordan Frasca. The Frontenacs also have their two first-round selections, Paul Ludwinski in 2020 and Matthew Soto in 2021, set to make their debuts.

Once right-winger Zayde Wisdon recovers from a shoulder injury, he may be put back on a line with Wright and Chromiak. The line was formed in early 2020 and found instant chemistry through the rest of the shortened season.

Caputi was hired as the Frontenacs assistant coach in 2018-19 and had to endure two losing seasons before the entire 2020-21 season was cancelled. He was appointed head coach this summer.

He said it’s been a roller-coaster ride since being hired, “but we’re here now and excited about what can be, and it’s a privilege to coach in this league.”


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