The Wellesley Applejacks suffered two crushing defeats last week. After being slammed by the Ayr Centennials 8-3 on Jan. 13, the Jacks returned home last Sunday to be shutout 3-0 by Hagersville.
Coach Kevin Fitzpatrick said the team was not bringing the necessary intensity to the ice.
“We were not at the level we need to be,” he said. “We’re working on our special teams, we’re working on our transition game, I think we can do better. We’re a very soft hockey team, so I think we have to work on our speed better than we have.”
In Ayr, the first period was a bit of a seesaw battle, though the Jacks were outshot by a two-one margin (17-8), with the Centennials ahead 4-2 after 20 minutes. That was as close as it would get, as it was all downhill from there.
The home team drew first blood, scoring at 3:28. But Wellesley replied just over a minute later with a goal from Justin Roeder, assisted by Kevin Howorth and Spencer Aspden.
Ayr replied in short order with a goal at 5:43, followed by a powerplay marker at 8:35. Roeder scored again for the Jacks just before the period’s halfway point, this time assisted by Michael Forster and Rob Hinschberer, but it wasn’t enough to fend off the Centennials as they scored again with five and a half minutes left in the first, leaving the Jacks to start the second down by two.
Only one goal was scored in the second period, with Ayr finding the back of the net on a power play, bringing the tally to 5-2.
Fitzpatrick characterized the game against Ayr as a total disaster, citing injuries as a major reason for the team’s loss.
“We played the game with 12 players with injuries and the score really wasn’t indicative of the game,” he said. “We had a very good chance to come back in that hockey game and actually out-played them for a good portion of the second period and part of the first.”
Ayr continued the scoreboard slaughter in the third period, however, potting three more goals. Wellesley’s Derick Lebold scored unassisted with 2:30 left in the game, making the final 8-3.
With three powerplay goals, Ayr took advantage of the 24 minutes of penalty time dished out to the Jacks during the game. Fitzpatrick said that number was way above the seasonal average for time spent in the box, but the team had a repeat performance on Sunday, landing themselves 26 minutes of penalty time against the Hagersville Hawks.
Ten of those 26 minutes came from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty issued late in the second period to each team. Fitzpatrick said the team could not afford to lose anyone for that length of time, even though it didn’t give the Hawks an advantage.
“Our penalty killing was pretty equal,” he said. “Defensively we broke down twice and when you’re playing a top team like they are you can’t do that.”
The Hawks scored twice in the first period, getting past goalie Alex Murray at 16:25 and 19:20. Murray kept the second period scoreless, but saw one slip by him with 10:28 left in the game to leave the Jacks devastated.
“The shots were equal,” said Fitzpatrick. “We didn’t generate shots off our chances and that was a concern for me. I thought we had to be smarter with some of our shot selections and shoot more often.”
Moving forward, Fitzpatrick is treating the Jack’s last eight games in regular season play as though they were championship games.
“I told these guys after Sunday’s game, you consider the rest of your season as playoffs,” he said. They need to understand what intensity level it takes.”
Fitzpatrick said another factor in the teams repeated losses was the number of players lost due to injuries. More Jacks players will be returning to the ice this weekend and Fitzpatrick hopes to have most of the team dressed for the playoffs.
“It would be such a blessing,” he said. “Some of these injuries we’re holding them out a little bit longer because of that. We’ve got time now, we know we’re going to be in the playoffs, so why, for the sake of one or two games rush them back a week early.”
After travelling to St. George Saturday, the Jacks return home tomorrow (Sunday) to face Delhi. Game time is 3 p.m.