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Jacks hold on to early lead to defeat Burford

It was another one-point victory in Wellesley, but this time to the Applejacks’ advantage. After losing to Woodstock 4-3, Ayr 4-3, and New Hamburg 5-4, the Jacks turned things around last Sunday with a 5-4 win over the Burford Bulldogs.

The Wellesley team has had an up-and-down season, with four wins and four losses so far, but Sunday marked the second time Burford has fallen to the Jacks (the first was September 29, a 10-1 defeat). Still, it wasn’t all triumph for the Jacks, as their Burford rivals made a push in the third period that nearly tied the game.

“We started out really strong,” said coach Rob Way. “The key to that is: we’ve had trouble getting too many penalties. In the first two periods of that game, we only had one penalty. Then we came out in the third, took a couple penalties, got down 5-3, they scored a couple goals, and all of a sudden they were back in the game again.”

Wellesley was first on the board, when Felix Lantaigne (assisted by Cal Jeffries) scored at 6:29. Burford countered at 11:37, but Wellesley’s Alex Stoody (Devon Wagner, Brett MacDonald) managed another goal at 16:04.

The second period was all Wellesley, with three goals scored in rapid succession: Blake Hetherington (Sean McKewan, Justin Lebold) at 14:25, Alex Stoody (Wagner) at 15:05, and Parker Wood (Lantaigne) at 19:49.

It would take a lot of effort to crawl out of a hole like that, and to Burford’s credit, they nearly did. The Bulldogs dominated the third frame, scoring at 2:45, 8:55, and 10:34, and outshooting Wellesley 15-5. By the end of the game, the Jacks’ lead had shrunk to 5-4.

“We did a bit of sitting back and holding on to the lead we had, and that never works well,” Way laughed.

For the coach, a pivotal moment came when players Jake Ariss and Mackenzie Shantz took penalties for slashing at 7:27 and 8:04 in the third period, clearing way for the Bulldogs’ last two goals.

“We just have to work on discipline,” he said. “We’re not alone. If you look at some of the other teams in the league, they’ve got a lot of penalties too. … The key to this league is, a really good power-play, and stay out of the box. If you can do those two things really well, you’re going to be in first.”

Still, a victory is nothing to sneeze at, and Way sees plenty of progress. In recent weeks, he has remarked that the team needs time to grow comfortable together. He believes Sunday’s game, when player Troy Williams returned after recovering from a shoulder injury, might have been a turning point.

“With Troy back, we rejigged our lines around a little, and I thought, in the first two periods especially, we had some really good chemistry happening.

“I’m looking forward to seeing that develop. When the season starts, you kind of shuffle the deck a few times to find the guys who play well together. I felt on Sunday, we’re getting really close.”

In Ayr Thursday, the Jacks return to the Wellesley arena Saturday night to face the Tavistock Braves. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

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