The Wellesley Applejacks continued their strong play last weekend, collecting three of a possible four points thanks to a 5-2 win in St. George last Saturday night and a 4-3 overtime loss in Burford the following evening.
Those points have allowed the Jacks to climb to fourth in the McConnell Conference standings, only four points behind Hagersville and St. George, both tied for first with 23 points.
“I guess all in all, yeah three out of four (points) isn’t bad,” said head coach Kevin Fitzpatrick, who expressed some disappointment in losing to Burford in overtime after leading 3-2 late into the third period.
Their 5-2 win over St. George was the team’s most complete effort in about three seasons, the coach added, indicating it was their strong yet disciplined play that made the difference.
The game was close for most of the match, as both teams were held off the score sheet throughout the first period. The Dukes opened the scoring at 8:03 of the second period from Pat Bates, but the Jacks’ Josh Herd tied it up at 18:37 on a feed from Blair Witmer.
In the third the Jacks really poured it on and exploded for four unanswered goals to put the game out of reach. Mitch Metzger tallied a powerplay marker just 1:05 into the third from Corey Way and Rob Hinschberger.
About four minutes later Wellesley slipped another puck past the Dukes keeper as Matt Soveregn scored the eventual game winner at 5:38 on the powerplay from Sean Malone and Connor McLeod.
Way made it 4-1 at 6:55 from Hinschberger and Metzger and Hinschberger iced the game at 18:11 from Way and Mark Hamilton.
Josh Heer was strong in goal, collecting 31 saves for the win.
The following night the team headed into Burford for a game against the always tough Bulldogs and the Jacks knew they were in for a hard game; Wellesley last travelled to Burford on Sept. 25 and needed overtime to seal a 3-2 win.
Once again both teams remained scoreless after the opening 20 minutes, but Way opened the scoring at 5:30 of the second from Jake Steenson.
Burford knotted the match up at 9:43, but Wellesley would score two unanswered goals just over a minute apart to take a 3-1 lead thanks to powerplay goals from Geoff Par at 14:28 (Metzger) and James Mildon at 15:49 (Malone, McLeod).
Burford tallied one more before the end of the period to make it 3-2, and then scored late at 15:46 of the third period to force overtime.
In that overtime period, the Jacks saw some bad luck and unlucky bounces end their winning streak at three games.
Wellesley managed to put the puck past Burford’s keeper Justin Garner in OT, but the goal was waved off after the referees determined Hinschberger had interfered with the keeper, even though Fitzpatrick said his captain was clearly pushed by the Burford defenceman after the goal was scored.
The game continued, and at the opposite end of the rink the Jacks blocked a Burford point shot which deflected off the board’s right onto the stick of the Bulldogs’ Kyle Chaney, who tapped in the easy winner at 4:29 of overtime.
Despite the overtime loss, the weekend continued Wellesley’s trend of playing well on the road. They own a 7-3-1 record away from Wellesley Arena, the best road record in the league.
Contrast that to their 2-3-0 record at home – the fewest home wins in the league.
“The biggest thing I think is when you’re on a bus you’re more focused than when they just come to the arena,” said Fitzpatrick of the team’s record.
“They need to come better prepared than they have been.”
The Jacks will get an opportunity to display that preparation tonight (Saturday) when they play host to first-place Hagersville at 7:30 p.m. in Wellesley.
Fans should keep an eye out for Jacks captain Rod Hinschberger, who has been one of the league’s best players since returning from injury last month. In only nine games this season he has seven goals and 20 points – including 12 points in his last four games.
“I made him captain last year and some people questioned that, but I knew he was going to be a good captain,” said Fitzpatrick.
“You can see the leadership he brings off and on the ice. He just brings it every game and never misses a shift.”