With a dozen players going overage at the end of last season, the Wellesley Applejacks are looking at significant changes to the roster this season.
“We spent a lot of time since we finished [last season] recruiting, so we’re expecting a lot of changes this year. We could have up to 14 new faces on the team this year,” said head coach Kevin Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick said he’s been getting a number of calls and emails from players that are moving to the area for university or are graduating from local AAA programs. It’s an encouraging sign, especially given the Jacks’ struggles last season, when they went 7-23-6 and missed the playoffs.
Fitzpatrick admitted that 2009/2010 was a dispiriting season but noted that he faced a learning curve in his first year back as coach after many years, and the team was challenged by significant illnesses and injuries.
“It was a disappointment and I’d be the first to admit when the season ended I was glad, but there were a lot of encouraging things too,” he said. “It became apparent in January that we had to move on and we started to build for this year. I would guess that we’ve been to more than 100 games since January looking for potential recruits.”
The Jacks have a number of experienced forwards returning from last season, as well as goaltender Kurt Martin.
“He had an outstanding season last season as a rookie, so there’s no reason to think that’s not going to continue,” Fitzpatrick said of Martin.
Four other players the team is counting on to make an impact are Rob Hinschberger, Mike Moggy, Read Shantz and Eric Parr. Hinschberger will wear the captain’s “C” on his sweater next season, and Moggy, Shantz and Parr will sport ‘A’s.
Hinschberger was a natural choice after coming to the Jacks from the Elmira Sugar Kings last year, the coach said.
“Rob’s a real hard worker, he gives everything on the ice, he’s got a great attitude and outlook. He came in and found a niche in the dressing room where he fit in. It became apparent as the season went on watching him at practice, watching him in the dressing room and during the game that he had a real gift for being a leader.”
The Jacks open their season Sept. 18 against old rivals Tavistock, with the home opener Oct. 9. The Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League has been reorganized this year, with the 15 teams split between two conferences.
Fitzpatrick admits he isn’t delighted with the shuffle; while old rivalries against Tavistock and Ayr will continue, the Jacks won’t face traditionally strong teams like Thamesford, North Middlesex and Mt. Brydges until after the first round of the playoffs.
There are a few positives to the reorganization, however; the eight-team conference means the Jacks are guaranteed a spot in the first round of the playoffs and their travel costs will be significantly lower as they play more games closer to home.
The Jacks are also having success with their entertainment package fundraiser, selling raffle tickets for prizes that include autographed jerseys and tickets to Toronto Maple Leaf, Toronto Raptor and Buffalo Sabres games.
“We’re really encouraged as an organization that we turned a corner last year to improving a lot of things,” Fitzpatrick said.
The Jacks’ training camp opens Aug. 28 at 2 p.m. in St. Clements. Any players interested in coming out can contact Fitzpatrick for more information at 519-656-2970.