Entering a do-or-die match in the first round of playoffs against the Ayr Centennials Feb. 26, the Wellesley Apple Jacks managed to eek out a victory in overtime, buying themselves at least one more postseason game.
This is the first playoff action many of the current Jacks have seen, as the team has not been a contender in the past two seasons. Down 3-1 in the series with Ayr, Wellesley scored in overtime, winning the match 7-6.
Coach Kevin Fitzpatrick said the game was good, but hopes they have a stronger showing against the Centennials for the rest of the series.
“I didn’t think we should be at the point where it went to overtime,” he said. “I’m surprised we were down three to one and I think that’s a credit to the way Ayr has played. I expect we’ll see a Saturday (game).”
The Jacks started the game strong, scoring three goals in the first period. Tim Stern took advantage of an early powerplay and scored at 2:09 assisted by Spencer Aspden. Ayr evened out the score at 11:25, but the Jacks’ Read Shantz (Michael Forester and Stern) would score again at 14:55 with a one-man advantage. Eric Parr, assisted by Matt Aspden, topped off the period with a third goal at 18:56.
Fitzpatrick cited an improvement in the Jacks’ special teams as the series moved along.
“It’s the first time we’ve really scored powerplay goals and not given up short-handed goals. You can’t continue to kill penalties, and Saturday we didn’t,” he said.
The second frame opened with the Jacks up by two, but would close with an even score. Ayr potted goals against Wellesley goalie Jordan Bauman at 5:16 and 16:30, while the Jacks came up empty. The teams went back to the room at 3-3.
The third saw three goals a piece for the teams, creating a few tense moments for the fans. The Centennials began the last period with two goals at 1:33 and 1:51, bringing the score to 5-3.
“We had both good and bad spurts and we had a bad one there in the third,” said Fitzpatrick. “We can play better and we have to.”
Wellesley’s Jake Steenson put the Jacks back in the game at 9:14, assisted by Michael Forster and Spencer Aspden. Justin Roeder tied the period at 13:19 assisted again by Forster and Stern. Ayr scored their sixth and final goal at 14:17, but the Jacks quickly responded with a goal by Rob Hinschberger (Roeder), ending the period tied at 6.
Fitzpatrick credits the win in part to the 53 stops Bauman made during the 72-minute match.
“He made saves when he had to. We’re two offensive teams and when you have two offensive teams sometimes people question the goaltending, but he played well enough for us to win the hockey game. He made one great save in the third period and it bought us the overtime,” he said.
The overtime period went 10 tense minutes without a winner until at exactly the halfway mark, Roeder, assisted by Josh Herd and Parr, slipped the puck past the Centennials’ defense and scored.
The Jacks are 3-1 in the first round of the playoff series and hoped to stay in it Thursday night. Results were unavailable at press time. Game five, if necessary, would be played Saturday night in Wellesley.