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Jacks slip into last place in conference

The Wellesley Applejacks came away with no points to show for their efforts last weekend, dropping three games in three days.

The Jacks fell 4-3 to Thamesford on Nov. 27, then lost 6-1 to North Middlesex on Saturday and 5-1 to Port Stanley on Sunday.

Keeper Luke Zehr watches the puck bounce just wide of the net during the Wellesley Applejacks’ game against Port Stanley Nov. 29. Zehr stopped 28 shots but the Sailors came out on top with a 5-1 victory.
Keeper Luke Zehr watches the puck bounce just wide of the net during the Wellesley Applejacks’ game against Port Stanley Nov. 29. Zehr stopped 28 shots but the Sailors came out on top with a 5-1 victory.

The losses left the Jacks in last place in the Bauer Conference of the Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League. With the season now past the midway point, that’s dangerous territory to be in. Last year they were guaranteed a playoff berth in the four-team conference; with the addition of Port Stanley this year, the Jacks will have to fight for a spot.

Head coach Kevin Fitzpatrick was disappointed and frustrated after the series of losses, and said the team just doesn’t score enough goals to win.

“We’re getting outstanding goaltending, but we scored two goals in two games. You’re not going to win a Junior hockey game like that.”

On special teams, the Jacks’ penalty killing is in the middle of the pack, but their power play is hurting; the team converted just once on 16 power play opportunities over the weekend.

“Our power play was non-existent,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve gone from the third best power play in the league to 12th out of 15 teams.”

On Friday night, the Jacks built up a 3-1 lead, only to watch it slip through their fingers.

Pat Doyle, from Chris Givlin and Jake Albrecht, put the Jacks on the board midway through the first period. Thamesford came back with a goal of their own seven seconds later, making it one apiece.

Wellesley started the second period at a blistering pace, with a power play goal from Mike Moggy 17 seconds in, and a second marker from Doyle (Nathan Regier) at the 30-second mark.

Down 3-1, Thamesford rebounded and came back with three goals in the second, scoring shorthanded, on the power play, and at even strength to ultimately win 4-3.

On Saturday, the Jacks gave up three goals early in the first period before Moggy scored Wellesley’s only marker at 17:07. North Middlesex then came back with three more en route to a 6-1 rout.

“We stunk,” Fitzpatrick said bluntly. “We didn’t come ready to play.”

After back-to-back losses, Wellesley needed a win against Port Stanley at home on Sunday. The Jacks were within one at the end of the second period, courtesy of a goal from Rob Martin (Matt Aspden, Doyle). But the home team couldn’t find the back of the net and the visitors did, notching a pair of power play goals and capping the win with an empty net goal.

“That was the toughest one I’ve had to swallow this year,” Fitzpatrick said of Sunday’s game. “Friday and Sunday, if we could just have converted a few things, we would have four out of six points, and instead we had zero.”

The team will be working this week on strategies to capitalize on scoring chances. Fitzpatrick wants to see more traffic in front of the net, to screen opposing goalies and slap in rebounds and loose pucks.

There was a perfect opportunity for that in Sunday’s game, he said. The Jacks had a five-on-three power play, won the faceoff cleanly, and sent the puck to the man at the point.

“He takes a great shot, but there’s nobody in front of the net. From the bench, all I could see was the Port Stanley goalie.”

“We just don’t generate second and third scoring chances,” he said. “We get a shot and that’s it. You’re pretty easy to defend if you’re not getting that second and third chance.”

After taking on St. George on Friday night, the Jacks will have their work cut out for them Sunday as they host Mt. Brydges. The league-leading Bulldogs have a record of 15-2-2, and are just as strong on the road as they are at home.

“We might see if we can put two goalies in,” Fitzpatrick joked.

The puck drops Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

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