Last weekend presented the Wellesley Applejacks with a couple of goaltender duels, and they managed to beat the Ayr Centennials 2-1 on their home ice on Dec. 2 but fell 3-1 to the first-place Delhi Travellers last Sunday night at home.
The head coach said he was pleased with their effort against Ayr, but added that the team just couldn’t make it click against Delhi, who improved to 3-1-0 against Wellesley this year.
“We played a real strong road game against Ayr on Friday, but give Delhi credit, they’re first in this league for a reason and they’re a real good team,” Kevin Fitzpatrick said of the team’s collective effort over the weekend.
“Both games had a real playoff atmosphere to them.”
The game in Ayr was a close-checking affair, with neither team finding the back of the net in the first period, each registering eight shots on goal.
In the second, Ayr’s Tyler Gauthier beat Jacks goaltender Josh Heer at 7:41 to give the home team a 1-0 lead, but Jacks captain Rob Hinschberger got that one back just over seven minutes later on the powerplay from Mark Hamilton and Mitch Metzger at 14:51 to take the teams into the second intermission tied.
In the third, Reid Denstedt of the Jacks collected his fifth of the season at 6:18 from Tyler Eckert and Spencer Geoffrey, and that was all his team would need as Heer made 37 saves to preserve the win for the Jacks.
Two nights later Wellesley returned home to test their mettle against the first-place team from Dehli.
In the first period Delhi struck early with a goal from Corbit Morrison at 2:17. The Jacks lost the faceoff to the right of Heer, and two Delhi players ended up all alone in front and Morrison squeaked a shot through the pads of the Jacks goaltender.
Delhi had a chance to go up 2-0 with a prolonged 5-on-3 powerplay at 17:15 of the first, but Wellesley’s penalty killers did a good job of keeping the Delhi forwards to the outside, and Heer kicked aside any shots that made it through.
The Jacks best chance of the period came on a shorthanded rush at 17:50, when Connor McLeod broke in alone on goal. His initial shot was stopped by Delhi’s goalie Nick Heath, and Wellesley’s Matt Soveregn put the rebound over the net.
Soveregn would make amends for that miss just 6:50 into the second period, however, when he calmly finished off a 3-on-2 rush with linemates McLeod and Eckert by firing a nice pass from McLeod into the top corner, glove side.
The game was poised to head into the third tied at two goals apiece, but late in the period the Jacks were their own worst enemies. After a giveaway by Blair Witmer about halfway into the Delhi zone, followed by a bad pinch by defenseman James Mildon, Delhi broke away with a 2-on-1 rush and put the puck past Heer with just eight seconds left on the clock.
It was enough to send Fitzpatrick from the bench and into the dressing room early in a fit of anger.
“We made about three straight mistakes on that play,” he said.
“We had a line out there thinking they would try and score with a dozen seconds left, when all they had to do was chip it into the corner.”
In the third period, the Jacks mustered as much offence as they could against Delhi, but couldn’t come close to beating Heath again, who was strong all night and finished with 24 saves. Delhi tallied an empty-net goal at 19:51 to seal the deal.
Heer was again excellent in goal for the Jacks, making 40 saves in the loss.
“He is outstanding and gives us a chance to win every game,” said Fitzpatrick of his goaltender. “He’s been a big addition to our club.”
The Jacks look to get back in the win column when they open a three-game home stand tonight (Saturday) against the last-place Norfolk Rebels (1-16-2) at 7:30 p.m. Look for plenty of goals because the last time these two teams met Wellesley got the edge by a score of 10-7.