The Wellesley Applejacks may have emerged from their toughest stretch of the season last weekend with only one win, but coach Kevin Fitzpatrick is pleased with what he saw from the team.
Playing three games in three nights on the road, the Jacks dropped a 4-2 decision in Dehli Oct. 21, fell 5-1 in Hagersville the next night, and emerged victorious last Sunday in a 6-3 win over Norfolk.
“We deserved more than the two points. Our guys played hard,” said Fitzpatrick, who could only dress 14 of his 24 skaters last weekend due to exam conflicts, illness and injury.
On the Friday night in Delhi the Jacks matched up well against the Travellers and were in it until the very end of the game. After allowing a first period powerplay goal to Delhi during a 5-on-3 penalty, Wellesley’s Corey Way tallied the only goal of the second period at 17:53 from captain
Rob Hinschberger and Matt Soveregn.
The Jacks fell behind 2-1 early in the third when Delhi’s Trevor Beihn scored at 5:31, but they continued to fight as Hinschberger managed to slip one past the Travellers’ keeper at 9:32 on the powerplay, assisted by Chris Bauman and Corey Way.
Unfortunately, penalty trouble doomed the Jacks in this one when Geoff Parr went to the box for slashing at 16:47 of the third period and Bobby Gray joined him in the sin bin at 17:57 for a too many men bench minor.
Delhi made them pay with a 5-on-3 goal at 18:01 and an empty net goal at 19:56 to seal the win. Josh Heer made 27 saves for the Jacks to take the loss.
“We played well,” asserted the head coach. “You look at the boxscore and two 5-on-3 goals (by Delhi) and an empty netter, and we could have won.”
The next night in Hagersville, the score was a little more lopsided as the Jacks endured a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the second-place Hawks.
The game was scoreless after the opening period in which Hagersville killed off four straight penalties, including a pair of 5-on-3 situations.
Much of the second period delivered the same, as the teams were scoreless until Hagersville slipped a powerplay goal past Heer for the 1-0 lead heading to the third while the Jacks were trying to kill a 5-on-3 penalty.
It was the third period that was the team’s undoing, however, as Wellesley surrendered three goals in the first 5:45 to put the game out of reach. Wellesley’s Reid Denstedt broke the shutout bid at 9:27 to make it a 4-1 game, but it wasn’t enough as the Hawks skated to a 5-1 win.
“We just stood there for a four-minute span and they skated and scored. We just hit the wall,” said Fitzpatrick of his team’s third period collapse. “We were down to three (defenceman) and two (forward) lines, and we hit the wall. If they think they beat us badly, they weren’t paying too close attention.”
In the third match of the weekend, the Jacks finally got the result they were looking for when they beat the lowly Norfolk Rebels 6-3, but it certainly wasn’t easy.
The Jacks trailed 2-0 at the end of the first after Justin Howden and Andrew Patenaude tallied for the Rebels, who had only won one game coming into the matchup.
The Jacks responded in the second with a quick goal courtesy of Connor McLeod just 15 seconds in on the powerplay from Hinschberger and Derick Lebold.
Wellesley’s Shawn Fitzpatrick fired home a shot at 5:19 to tie the match at two, and Sean Malone gave the Jacks their first lead of the weekend at 7:02 from Spencer Geoffrey and Hinschberger.
Norfolk tied the match briefly at 13:46 on the powerplay, but McLeod’s second of the period at 18:03 stood up as the eventual winner and Wellesley scored twice more in the third to cruise to the 6-3 win.
Heer made 26 saves for the win.
Even though the team only managed to collect two of a possible six points during the three-game stretch, the weekend did hold some positives for the Jacks, highlighted by the return of the team’s captain Rob Hinschberger who missed the entire start of the season due to injury.
He collected two goals and four assists in three games, as well as six penalty minutes.
“He had an outstanding weekend,” said the head coach.
The play of Josh Heer in net was also a big positive on the weekend, Fitzpatrick said, and bodes well for the rest of the season. Despite getting shelled for 11 goals in three games, his goals against average still sits at 2.56 – fourth in the league.
“That’s why he is one of the best goalies in the league. He was outstanding in those three games and didn’t have a chance in Saturday’s loss (5-1 to Hagersville).”
The Jacks (6-4-0) get right back at it tonight (Saturday) at home when they take on Burford (2-7-1) at 7:30 p.m., and the coach knows the team has a few things to work on before then.
“For all three games we had bad turnovers in the neutral zone and just inside the offensive blue line, but they’re easy fixes,” said Fitzpatrick.
“These guys work hard and they’re talented. What it comes down to is focus and discipline.”