The Wellesley Apple Jacks emerged from their 11-day layoff to post an impressive 6-1 victory over the lowly Port Dover Sailors last Sunday night.
The Jacks – who last saw action in their 4-3 overtime victory over Hagersville back on Nov. 3 – scored six unanswered goals and went 3 for 6 on the powerplay in their return to the ice.
“We played pretty well considering we hadn’t played since the third,” said head coach Kevin Fitzpatrick. “We had a lot of energy, and we played at a fast and hard pace, but we showed a lot of rust too.”
Fortunately the Jacks shook off that rust against a Pt. Dover team that came into the game with an ugly 0-12-1 record. The Sailors showed some jump early, though, as they scored the first goal of the game just 2:53 into the first on a bit of a lucky bounce.
“The first goal was actually scored from centre ice,” explained Fitzpatrick. “It was going wide, and I don’t know what it hit, but it bounced and it bounced again and changed directions two different times. It must have hit a rut or something because it was going three feet wide.”
The Jacks didn’t let that early goal affect them, though, potting two in rapid succession to erase the bad goal. Stephen Lewtas scored his fifth of the year at 8:21 on the powerplay, from Corey Way and Michael Forster.
Just 21 seconds later, Way gave the Jacks the lead for good with his eighth of the year at 8:42 from Forster and Shawn Fitzpatrick.
“We went out and scored a couple quick goals and controlled much of the play,” said coach Fitzpatrick, whose team held a 40-27 shot advantage by the end of the game.
Their strong play continued into the second with three more unanswered goals; Spencer Aspden at 7:05 from Eric Parr, Forster from Way and Fitzpatrick at 13:29 on the powerplay, and Parr with an unassisted goal at 19:12.
In the third, Josh Herd closed out the scoring on the powerplay from Parr and Rob Hinschberger at 13:48.
The last five minutes of the game, however, got rough as referees assessed 28 minutes of penalties to both teams, including a game misconduct to Lewtas for fighting, and the Sailors’ Kyle Jansen for abuse of official at 14:55.
“It’s kind of frustrating, we had the game in hand with about five minutes to go and they drew us into some bad penalties, which really hasn’t happened all year,” explained Fitzpatrick, whose team has been shorthanded 77 times this year, the third-fewest in the league.
The win was the Jacks eighth of the year, already surpassing last seasons total of seven. They are also only two points behind their total for last year. Fitzpatrick says that the enormous turnover from last year’s squad – including 15 new players – has changed the culture of the dressing room and led to better results on the ice and in the standings.
“We’ve got good leadership, and this team really has fun. You can see it in the dressing room before the games and after the games. It’s a different team,” said the coach.
“Last year’s team, with all the problems we had, we never were healthy. The only luck we had was bad luck all year. It wasn’t that they weren’t working, it was just one of those years.”
The Jacks will make the drive down to St. George tonight (Saturday) to take on the Dukes at 7:30, and their next home game is next Saturday, Nov. 27, in a rematch against the Sailors. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.