It was a hard-fought series that extended all the way to an overtime period in game seven, but on February 16 the Hagersville Hawks finally booted the Wellesley Applejacks out of the SOJHL playoffs in the second round.
The Wellesley team won three games early in the series, but fell behind towards the end, succumbing to Hagersville in their final two matches. Now it’s all over for the Jacks until the 2013-2014 season revs up in October.
Head coach Kevin Fitzpatrick looks back with frustration on a series that could have gone either way.
“Game seven was a fantastic game to watch and participate in, just a frustrating end – disappointing,” said Fitzpatrick. “So we move on and get ready for next year.”On February 13, the Jacks met the Hawks on Hagersville ice, and scored their final victory of the year. The team was strong out of the gate, dominating the first period with four goals. Corey Way scored 48 seconds in (assisted by Reid Denstedt and Troy Williams), followed by Denstedt at 5:52, Shawn Fitzpatrick (assists: Devon Wagner, Josh Herd) at 6:03, and Cody Tapsell (Wagner, Fitzpatrick) at 6:15.
Hagersville scored twice in the first period, and caught up with two more goals in the second, but a goal from Josh Herd (Tapsell, Wagner) at 5:55 in the second, and Tapsell (Wagner) at 8:46 in the third, helped push Wellesley’s winning score to 6-4.
But the Jacks’ momentum stalled when they returned to home ice on February 15. In this sixth game of the series, the Jacks managed only two goals – one by Devon Wagner (Tapsell, Fitzpatrick) at 12:24 in the first period, and one by Tapsell (Fitzpatrick, Wagner) at 14:38 in the second. Hagersville proved a daunting opposition, scoring twice in the first period, once in the second, and twice in the third for a final score of 5-2.
The make-or-break home game last Saturday proved to be a nail-biter. Hagersville scored the first two goals, but replies from Tapsell (Steven Tait, Williams) at 8:31 and Ryan Michael (Brett MacDonald, Corey Way) at 10:03 tied things up. Hagersville and Wellesley both scored in the second period (the latter courtesy of Wagner at 14:41), keeping the teams on equal footing.
In the third period, goals from Williams and Tyler Eckert at 3:12 and 10:56 seemed to give the Jacks the edge, but the Hawks fought back, just barely tying the game with goals at 18:22 and 19:23. At 4:57 in overtime, the Hagersville Hawks dealt Wellesley a final blow.
“We had a two-goal lead with a minute and forty seconds to go,” said Fitzpatrick. “We were playing fantastic, and there was a penalty called against us that the referee later apologized for – which does no good at all – and that led to the fourth goal.
“The fifth goal, we made a mistake – we had control of the draw and we made a couple of mistakes. But the fact is, there were attempts to get the puck through, and it deflected at least three different times. It could have went either way.”
Fitzpatrick added, “We had our chances to bury them, and we didn’t, and they kept at it.”
With the season over, Fitzpatrick is already looking at ways to improve for next year. “We have to be way better at home,” he said.
“I’ve been wracking my brain basically all year about this: we had a decent home record, but a better away record … There’s definitely a comfort level when they’re in their dressing room, and they have a weight room and a big screen TV and a big stereo system. I don’t know.”
Though his boys fell in the second round, Fitzpatrick believes the team has a good future.
“This team is young, and there are a lot of tough players back next year,” said the coach. “That’s different from past years. When I took over four years ago, you couldn’t get people to come here. Now, these guys have bought into the program, they’re proud to be Applejacks, and this team is built for the next two years. We’re in good shape.”