The Wellesley Applejacks experienced a couple of firsts last weekend. Unfortunately, they came out on the wrong end of each one.
The Jacks suffered their first regulation loss in nearly two months, a 4-2 decision against the Tavistock Braves Nov. 26, and followed it up Saturday by being the first team to lose to the Port Dover Sailors all season, a 6-5 final.
“The weekend was the first time this team has faced any adversity,” said head coach Kevin Fitzpatrick, whose team hadn’t lost in regulation since a 7-4 defeat in Delhi on Oct. 1, a stretch where the team went 8-0-3.
“It was a frustrating weekend.”
Friday night against Tavistock the Jacks played a tough game against the division-leading Braves, and were in it until the final buzzer sounded. Down 1-0 after the first, Wellesley tied it up at 9:47 of the second with Corey Way’s team-leading 12th goal of the season from Shawn Fitzpatrick, which had the Jacks optimistic heading into the third period.
Tavistock retook the lead at 6:46 of the third, and from there the game unraveled for the Jacks. The team took a costly too many men penalty at 7:51, and suffered for it. Tavistock’s Darrin Pye scored just four seconds into the powerplay to put the Braves up 3-1, and Kyle Alyea made it 4-1 with a shorthanded goal at 14:47 to effectively put the game out of reach.
“It was a very good game up until then,” noted Fitzpatrick. “We had a guy break his stick on the faceoff right after (the too many men penalty) and they scored off of it. That’s going to happen.”
Eric Parr rounded out the scoring at 19:11 on the powerplay to make it a 4-2 game, assisted by Rob Hinschberger and Justin Roeder.
The Jacks looked to put the disappointing loss behind them on Nov. 27 against the winless Port Dover Sailors, who were dead last in the league with an ugly 0-15-1 record. Wellesley had won the previous three games against the Sailors this season by a combined score of 25 to 6, and they got out to a good start in this one as well.
Way scored for the sixth straight game to make it 1-0 with only 11 seconds left in the first, from Michael Forster and Geoff Parr. It was a fast-paced period with each team recording 14 shots on goal. Geoff Parr broke up the play in the neutral zone and got the puck up to Forster to start a 2-on-1 the other way, leading to the goal.
Goaltender Jordan Bauman was strong in net for the Jacks, making several key saves to keep the Jacks from falling behind early.
The Sailors came out and scored early in the second to tie it up at one just 1:56 in, but Kevin Howorth restored the one-goal lead at 6:53 with a shorthanded goal. A Sailor forward tried to dump the puck deep into the Wellesley zone from centre ice to start a line change, but the puck didn’t get deep enough and Howorth was away on a clear breakaway, shooting the puck top shelf.
Eric Parr added another less than two minutes later to put the Jacks up 3-1 at 8:48 of the second, from Way and Read Shantz, and the Jacks appeared poised to continue the Sailors misery.
“We went up 3-1 and everybody figured we were going to blow them away and they let up, and you can’t let up,” said Fitzpatrick.
Wellesley forward Geoff Parr took an interference penalty at 9:26, and the game turned in Port Dover’s favour. Connor Dorey scored on the powerplay at 10:19 to make it a 3-2 game, and Matt Vansickle completed the comeback just 1:59 later to knot it at three heading into the dressing room after two periods.
Wellesley roared out of the gates to start the third period, with Ben Ahier scoring just 55 seconds into the period from Justin Roeder and Eric Parr, but the momentum was short lived. Kurtis Pettitt tied the game for Port Dover at 5:09 and the Sailors iced the game at 16:32 with a goal by Chris Murray. The Jacks looked lethargic for much of the period, and a sloppy turnover in their own end led to the deciding goal.
“The winning goal was a bit of a fluky bounce, but we had a lot of guys who had real bad games that night. That’s two points that are going to haunt us at the end of the year, I think,” said Fitzpatrick.
The coach said that there was an added sense of disappointment in the loss to Port Dover, knowing it was that team’s first win of the year.
“Any team on any given night can come back and bite you,” he said. “It’s over, said and done, and what do you do about it?”
One thing they can do is get back on the ice and put the losses behind them, which is exactly what they need to do this weekend when they face the Delhi Travellers, who are only six points behind the Jacks in the McConnell standings, and the St. George Dukes, who are only two points behind. The next Jacks home game is on Dec. 18 against Burford at 7:30 p.m., when the Jacks will look to avenge their 5-4 overtime loss on Halloween.