Jacks look to be on a roll
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Jacks look to be on a roll

Reid Denstedt eyes the goal during the Wellesley Applejacks’ 3-2 victory over the Norwich Merchants Oct. 11 at the Wellesley arena.

With the playoffs on the horizon, now would be a good time for team to hit its stride

Sean McEwan passes the puck away from two oncoming Navy Vets. Wellesley beat Woodstock 7-4 on December 28. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
Sean McEwan passes the puck away from two oncoming Navy Vets. Wellesley beat Woodstock 7-4 on December 28. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
Have the Wellesley Applejacks found their groove? After a bumpy first few months, the Jacks are on a hot streak, with three consecutive wins before and after Christmas: first against the Tavistock Braves (6-1) on December 20, then the New Hamburg Firebirds (5-3) December 21 and the Woodstock Navy Vets (7-4) December 28.

“We’ve generally been pretty pleased,” said head coach Rob Way. “We’ve got some really tough games coming up, so we’ve got to demonstrate that we can consistently beat teams that are above us in the standings.”

First, the Jacks had the Tavistock Braves quivering on opposition ice December 20, with Alex Stoody (assist: Taylor Doering) scoring first for Wellesley at 3:28 and Sean McEwan (Brett MacDonald, Alex Stoody) following at 18:26.

In the second period, the Braves landed what would become their only goal at 1:45, but Troy Williams countered with two goals at 11:02 (Cody Tapsell, Luke Rose) and 12:00 (Blake Hetherington, Reid Denstedt). The Jacks strengthened their lead in the third period with goals by Denstedt (Williams, Rose) at 6:39 and Cal Jeffries (Doering, Hetherington) at 13:23).

The Jacks have often struggled against Tavistock, losing their first three games before enjoying a 10-1 victory on November 30. (The Jacks have now passed that team to claim fifth-place in the conference). “It’s been nice to get over that hurdle, and the kids have competed well against them,” said Way.

But it was the last pre-Christmas game against New Hamburg that Way called “one of our best games of the year,” with the team enjoying a hard-fought 5-3 win on home ice.

“We’ve preached to the kids all year: they have to win the special teams; they have to win the power plays; we did that against New Hamburg. … I really believe that’s how you win this league: win the special teams each game.”

The Firebirds scored first at 9:30, but Devon Wagner (Tapsell, Rose) scored for Wellesley at 13:41 and Denstedt (Tapsell, Williams) took the lead at 19:23. Stoody (McEwand, MacDonald) put another one on the Jacks’ board at 5:20 in the second.

New Hamburg managed a slight rebound at 18:48 in the second and 4:48, but Stoody sank two more pucks at 14:42 and 19:40 (against an empty net) to seal the Jacks’ victory.

“The kids battled really hard and got the win they deserved,” said Way.

Despite a 7-4 win, the Jacks faced a harder time on December 28 against the Woodstock Navy Vets, as the low-ranking opponents never took an eye off the goal.

The Jacks enjoyed an auspicious beginning, with four goals in the first period that seemingly buried the rivals: Stoody (Lebold, McEwan) at 1:37; Rose (McKenzie Carter, Jeffries) at 2:31; Hetherington (Williams, Mark Detzler) at 3:18; and Stoody (Parker Wood, Detzler) at 14:18.

But beginning in the second period, the tide turned. Woodstock scored at 1:58. While Wellesley’s Brett MacDonald (Stoody, McEwan) managed a goal at 14:20, Woodstock found the back of the net at 16:01, and 13:25, and then again at 16:03 in the third. The Jacks managed to salvage a win with goals by Denstedt (Wood, Williams) at 19:07 and Stoody (MacDonald, Wood) at 19:41 – the latter on an empty net.

Several penalties helped Woodstock gain some momentum, but Way says the problem was deeper. “Despite telling the kids, ‘Do not take your foot off the pedal,’ I think we scored those first four goals so quickly that we laid back a little. We went from what could have been a very easy game if we’d kept pounding them, to creating a situation where Woodstock was believing they could beat us going into the third.”

Indeed, Woodstock outshot Wellesley in the third period 20-13, and 49-47 overall.

Still, the scores are particularly impressive given that the team has had a revolving-door lineup over the holidays, with several players out of commission. But even this, says Way, presents opportunities.

“It’s steadily evolving. … The neat thing is, the kids we’ve put into positions have done really well for us. A kid like Sean McEwan, who basically is a first-year rookie for us, we moved him from a line that wasn’t necessarily seeing a lot of ice time, and he’s played phenomenally for us.”

With only 11 games left before the regular season wraps up on February 1, the pressure is on to keep the wins coming.

“I feel like we’re going the right way into the playoffs,” said Way. “Right now we’re healthy, we’re feeling good about how we’re playing, and we just have to continue to build on that.”

The Jacks will test their mettle against the Paris Mounties – the second-place team – on January 5 at the Wellesley arena. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.

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