Come-from-behind shootout win over Ayr sandwiched by pair of well-played losses to the Merchants and CentennialsAccording to Mitch Albom, “Life is a series of pulls back and forth.” The Wellesley Applejacks might have felt the same last weekend, playing a trio of games that saw momentum shift between them and their rivals. Narrow losses on Friday and Sunday to the Norwich Merchants and the Ayr Centennials bookended a Saturday shootout victory over Ayr.
Ayr and Norwich, the third- and fourth-place teams in the Mid-West Junior C League, are both ahead of Wellesley in the rankings. For head coach Rob Way, last weekend’s tight races prove the Jacks can go toe-to-toe with tough rivals.
“Saturday night against Ayr, we’re losing by two goals, then the kids fought back, tied it, and we went into the shootout. And yesterday, very competitive, could have went either way,” said Way on Monday.
“I was really happy with the compete level of the kids. They did not quit and they showed they can compete with anybody in the league.”
Wellesley scored the first goal on January 10, with Brett MacDonald (assist: Taylor Doering) sinking one at 6:19. The Merchants then pushed to a lead with goals at 11:51 and 14:38.Despite the opposition, the Jacks staged a comeback with goals at 1:42 and 4:19 in the third period by Troy Williams (Luke Rose, Josh Heer) and Rose (Alex Stoody, Doering). Norwich countered with goals at 9:34 and 15:46, but with less than a minute to go, Alex Stoody (Doering) tied the game at 19:12. The Merchants finally snatched a 5-4 victory at 2:56 in overtime.
On January 11, the Applejacks and the Ayr Centennials were with each other every step of the way. Wellesley’s Felix Lantaigne (Reid Denstedt, Williams) got the ball rolling with a goal at 3:30, and Ayr matched it at 9:04. Ayr scored again at 11:34 in the second period, but Doering (MacDonald) matched it at 13:55.
The third period was a back-and-forth battle. Ayr scored at 8:42 and 9:27; Wellesley’s Rose (Parker Wood) and Sean McEwan (MacDonald, Wood) bounced back at 9:55 and 12:40. Ayr surged ahead at 13:33; Doering (Lantaigne, Denstedt) tied it again at 18:32. The action continued into overtime, with Wellesley finally eking out a 6-5 win in the shootout.
It was much the same display when the Jacks again battled the Centennials on January 12. Yes, Ayr scored the first two goals (at 4:28 in the first and 0:27 in the second), and yes, Wellesley tied it up in the second period at 10:55 and 15:35 (courtesy of Cody Tapsell and Cal Jeffries). Ayr surged ahead with two more goals, at 16:09 and 1:12 in the third; Cody Tapsell (Jeffries) put Wellesley back on the board at 9:35. Ayr strengthened its lead at 11:06; Luke Rose scored one more for Wellesley at 15:03. When the goals were tallied, it was Ayr that came out on top of the 5-4 final.
How can the Jacks turn more of those narrow losses into narrow wins? Way says the key is discipline.
“We made it harder on ourselves to compete than we needed to because of the penalties we took,” he said. He added that a second referee on the ice – mandated as of January 1 – has kept all players on their toes.
Still, Way continues to see improvement in the team, despite the mixed results.
“When we got behind in the game on Friday or Saturday, earlier in the year the team wouldn’t have battled back to get the tie and win one in overtime. For me, the real positive was the compete level – the will to win is better than it was in October.”
In Delhi Friday night, the Jacks are back at the Wellesley arena Saturday and Sunday for a pair of games against the Norwich Merchants. Game times are 7:30 and 7 p.m. respectively.