The Wellesley Applejacks put paid to a six-game losing streak last weekend, heading into overtime to down the Burford Bulldogs 5-4.
Coach Kevin Fitzpatrick was pleased to see the team pick up two points, but noted they had chances to put the game away in the third period.
“We did have a two-goal lead twice in the third period, [but we] started to panic and run around and let them back in,” he said.
Applejacks captain Pat Doyle put Wellesley on the board first with a goal midway through the first period.
The second period was another one-goal affair, as Burford’s Jason Watson evened things up 30 seconds in.
The Applejacks built their lead up to two goals early in the third courtesy of markers from Matt Aspden and Read Shantz. Tyler Vandenbussche narrowed that lead to one at 15:06, only to watch Ben Jefferies make it 4-2 for the Jacks a few seconds later.
But Burford’s John Slade answered back at 16:04 and with just over a minute remaining, Brent Wallace scored for the Bulldogs to send the game into overtime.
Wellesley’s Rob Hinschberger ended overtime at 1:13, notching his second game-winning goal this season.
Just shy of the midway point of the season, the Applejacks are still searching for a few key elements of a winning team, the most important being consistency.
They dominate parts of every game, Fitzpatrick said – only once or twice have they been outclassed on the ice – but struggle to sustain that performance over 60 minutes.
Last Sunday’s game also highlighted another problematic area: discipline.
“We took … some bad penalties in critical points of the game,” the coach said. “We took penalties when we were on a power play, which is a concern when you’re giving up the advantage like that.”
Wellesley went 0 for 10 on the power play on Sunday, while Burford was 0 for 9. The Jacks moved the puck well on the power play, Fitzpatrick said, and could have had three or four goals but missed some glorious scoring chances.
Finishing – putting pucks in the net – is the other key element. The Jacks have the second fewest goals-for in the Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League. Only solid goaltending from Kurt Martin and Luke Zehr has allowed them to win with such a slender goals-for column; four of the team’s five wins have come by a single point.
“If they come to play hockey, we’re very capable of being a good hockey team,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve got a long ways to go to compete against Mount Brydges, but so do a lot of teams in our league. Ayr put it to us, but we put it to them two weeks earlier.”
Fitzpatrick expects December will be an interesting month, as Junior B teams will be letting players go and players that aren’t happy with their teams will be looking for greener pastures.
The coach couldn’t say for sure whether he’ll be making changes to the roster, but said he’s had talks with a few players.
“We’ve got room to make changes. The only team that doesn’t look at changes is the team they hand the trophy to. You’ve got to better your hockey team.”
The Applejacks (5-8-2) face Port Dover tonight (Saturday) in Wellesley. On paper, it’s a game the Jacks should win, as the Sailors have yet to win a game in 15 starts this season. But there’s no margin for overconfidence; the last time the teams played each other, Wellesley won a narrow 4-3 victory.
Game time is 7:30 p.m.