So close… and yet, not close enough. The sixth-place Wellesley Applejacks gave the second-place New Hamburg Firebirds a run for their money on home ice November 16, but despite a strong effort that brought the Jacks within spitting distance of a tie, the final score was a 5-4 loss.
“I felt bad for the kids,” said head coach Rob Way. “We went in there down four defencemen … and we played against the top-place team. And the kids battled their hearts out.
“The effort was there, the compete level was there, and they just worked their tails off and weren’t rewarded.”Throughout the game, momentum swung back and forth between the rivals. Wellesley landed on the board first, with Brett MacDonald, assisted by Alex Stoody and Devon Wagner, scoring at 2:39, followed by New Hamburg at 7:41, and Wellesley again at 11:33, courtesy of Wagner (MacDonald).
In the second period, New Hamburg pushed ahead to the lead, with two goals in rapid succession at 4:38 and 5:22. Wellesley’s Alex Stoody (Wagner, MacDonald) countered at 12:31, and New Hamburg struck back at 12:53.
The Jacks were at a 4-3 disadvantage as they entered the third period, and at 15:29, Reid Denstedt was able to even things again. But Wellesley’s hopes for victory were dashed just 30 seconds later when New Hamburg landed the last goal of the evening, bringing the final score to 5-4.
“We bounced a shot off [the goalie’s] shinpad,” said Way. “Then, we pulled our goalie, and their goalie made an amazing save with 10 seconds left to preserve the win. So literally, it was two bounces that could have went our way, and they didn’t.”
The Jacks may have lost, but no one team dominated another: shots on net were almost even, with New Hamburg slightly edging out Wellesley 51-50.
“I believe in the dressing room, people felt very good about how they played. People knew they gave it their all, and it was just a matter of: we didn’t get a couple of bounces that went our way.
“As coaching staff, I’m perfectly fine with that effort. You’re going to have games during the year where, despite your best effort, it’s not going to go your way. This was one of them.”
With a 7-8 record, the Jacks have so far experienced a middling season – partly due to injuries that have kept key players off the ice. Way suggests that the team’s respectable performance last weekend could bode well for games to come.
“I’m convinced that when we get some of our players back, if we have that same kind of compete level that we had against New Hamburg, we’re going to be fine.”
The Jacks are at the Wellesley arena twice this weekend: tonight (Saturday) to face the Woodstock Navy Vets, and tomorrow against the Burford Bulldogs. Game time is 7:30 p.m. both nights.