The Wellesley Applejacks have really put a slow start behind them, proving themselves to be contenders with three wins in four nights. The team now sits in third place in the McConnell Conference of the Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League with a record of 6-2-0.
Starting off the winning ways, the Jacks travelled Oct. 21 to Ayr where they were able to nudge the Centennials down in the standings by winning 3-2 in overtime.
“That was a really good game,” said Applejacks coach Kevin Fitzpatrick. “Ayr had only lost one game so far this season; they are one of the top-place teams, so it was a great way to start the weekend.”
Two days later, Saturday night found the team skating in front of an excited hometown crowd. The Jacks put on a good show for their fans, beating the St. George Dukes 5-3. It was a tight match with a lot of back-and-forth play but the Jacks managed to capitalize on a few more of their key scoring opportunities.
Both teams came out of the dressing room ready to play; each put more than 10 shots on net, and Corey Way got the evening started for Wellesley on a feed from Shawn Fitzpatrick just a few minutes into the period. Not long after however, St. George player Grant Galloway tipped a goal into the net on a power play, evening the score at one apiece before the period ended.
“We started that game a little slowly, but then we had an exceptional second and third period,” said the coach.
In the second frame, Wellesley seemed to have gotten a boost of energy and was able to put pucks past the St. George goalie twice in the first five minutes of play. Justin Milne started off the period with help from forward Eric Parr. Then superstar of the weekend Stephen Lewtas notched a power play goal with assists from Rob Hinschberger and Justin Roeder.
“Stephen had an outstanding weekend,” said Fitzpatrick. “He fought hard and didn’t seem to tire at all. It was great to see.”
St. George had a sizeable gap to overcome by this point, but they were able to come back by one point (Grant Galloway) before the end of the period, giving them some hope for the third.
The third period turned out to be a defensive battle, with a total of only seven shots. It was Wellesley that came out on top, however, as the Dukes got just one shot on net in the last 20 minutes. The attempt by Jamie Snow was a good one, but just minutes later Wellesley’s Michael Forster notched another goal, giving Wellesley a two-goal margin that was not going to be erased.
St. George pulled their goalie when they were down by one goal, but the Wellesley defence was not going to let anything get to the net and Applejack Jake Steenson was able to put one into the open net with a few seconds left to provide the insurance needed to take the victory.
The following day, Oct. 24, the tired team had a tough time getting started but once they got into the game, they brought the toughness that Fitzpatrick had come to expect from them that weekend, managing to beat the Burford Bulldogs 5-3.
“By Sunday it was tough to get things going, but by the second period we were ready to go and we pulled off a win.”
Burford took fast advantage of the Jacks’ initial sluggishness to put a puck past the netminder less than a minute into play. Wellesley’s Parr and Way both took advantage of their powerplay opportunities, replying twice for the Jacks before the end of the first period.
Burford’s Wilson Tlustos pushed back against the Jacks tough play in the second, scoring the only goal of the period, which seemed to light a fire under the Wellesley team. They came back and scored three more goals in the third period (Justin Roeder, and two from Michael Forster), solidifying their lead. Bulldog Bevan Wells made a last- ditch effort and put his team one goal closer, but it was too late: the Jacks emerged victorious again.
“Our guys are really starting to come together. I think everyone knows everyone’s name now, which is good,” said Fitzpatrick jokingly. “We have had a bit of practice time and it is paying off.”
While noting the excellent goaltending, Fitzpatrick said the team’s success thus far has been a team effort.
“If you look at our stats, there are only a few people without a point; we are a very balanced team. I think there are nine players within three points of each other, so it shows that we are getting good at working together.”
At this weekend’s game, the players will be decked out in pink gear to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Today’s (Saturday) match against Tavistock will be a benefit game, with proceeds from the sale of special edition programs and donations received for pink ribbons going towards breast cancer research. The match begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Wellesley arena.