Jacks blow big leads in consecutive losses
Up 4-0 to first-place Ayr, Wellesley ends up dropping 5-4 OT decision; three-goal lead evaporates in 7-4 loss to Norwich
IT’S NOT HOW YOU start, it’s how you finish – a lesson the Applejacks learned the hard way last week. Twice.
The team built up leads against the Ayr Centennials last Thursday and the Norwich Merchants two days later, only to drop decisions of 5-4 and 7-4 respectively.
On the road November 2, the Jacks had the odds stacked against them as they took on the current leader of the South Doherty Division, in their own barn, no less. A string of victories over the weekend have set the Centennials’ record at 16-2, well above the Jacks (7-7-0-1). Early on, however, Wellesley gave them a run for their money.
Right out the gate, it was Wellesley’s game. A hooking infraction by Ayr just one minute in gave the Jacks the opportunity to draw first blood. And that they did, as Trent Dundas scored on the power play, with Kyle Soper and Corey Restoule getting the assists.
More goals would soon follow.
Two minutes later, the Jacks did it again, with Soper this time taking the lead and Brady Gerber picking up the assist. Only three minutes of game time had passed, and already the scoreboard was standing at 2-0 in favour of the visitors.
A scuffle broke out just 30 seconds later, seeing the ejection of one player from each side off with a game misconduct. From there the game settled into a rhythm right up until the last minute of play.
An Ayr player went off at 19:13 for checking from behind, setting up a power play goal by Alex Uttley (Nick Mercier, Shaun Pickering). Going into the intermission, the Applejacks were up 3-0 over the firstplace team in the league.
Still with the momentum, the Jacks came out flying. At 2:10, Spencer Brick (Gerber) picked up the team’s fourth goal of the match. Down 4-0, the Centennials weren’t about to roll over, however.
Ayr got on the board at 4:12 with the first of many, it turned out. Five minutes later came their second of the match, this time on the power play. At exactly halfway through the game, the score was sitting at 4-2 in favour of the Jacks.
Four minutes later, it was a one-goal game, Ayr’s third coming on the power play.
“We were up 3-0 after the first period, and then we scored early in the second to get up 4-0, which is real good,” said head coach Brad Gerber.
“But it just goes to show against a team like Ayr, you have to keep your foot on the pedal. Otherwise, you know, if you open the door a crack, they’re going to come right through, and that’s what happened.”
Heading into the final frame up 4-3, the Jacks found the Centennials uncomfortably close, nipping at their heels. The game was no longer the blowout it may have appeared 20 minutes earlier. The Jacks still held the lead; they just needed to hold on a little bit longer.
And then Ayr scored again.
The game-altering goal came just two minutes into the third frame, setting up the stage for a final showdown. The two teams were now neck and neck.
To their credit, the Jacks held firm, though got nothing through themselves. The 18 minutes left on the clock ran down to zero with neither side able to break the tie – it was off to overtime.
The home team completed the come-from-behind victory just one minute into the extra frame. It was a disappointing end to dramatic game for the Jacks.
In many ways, this was a fairly even game. Shots were 39-36 for the winning side, and both teams scored two power play goals, capitalizing on a total of 35 infractions.
“I think it goes to show what we have,” said Gerber about the game.
“I think it shows that we can play with them. The guys should take the positives from that game and move forward. You know, even though we didn’t get the win, there’s a lot of positives and I hope the guys can see the positives and move on.”
Returning to Wellesley for a Saturday match against the Norwich Merchants, the Jacks ended up with another game that seemed to head in one direction before dramatically swinging the other way.
It was closer than the 7-4 final, as Norwich scored twice when Wellesley pulled the goalie for an extra attacker.
The Jacks came out swinging as they had done in Ayr. Pickering potted the first goal of the match less than four minutes in, with Uttley and Reade MacInnis getting assists. At 10:50,
Pickering doubled the lead, with Uttley again and Fischer assisting. Rounding out the period, Brick (Gerber, Garrett Schultz) made it 3-0.
Up by three, the Jacks seemed to have the game in their pocket. But then, like in their last match against Ayr, the reversals started coming. With less than 30 seconds on the clock, Norwich slapped their first puck into the net, sending the teams off the ice at 3-1.
Heading into the second, the Merchants were now on the offensive. In just one minute, the team scored its second. At nine-and-a-half came their third, kotting the score at 3-3.
Things seemed to be going Wellesley’s way again when Gerber potted one to put the team ahead after 40 minutes.
Entering the final period of play up 4-3, the Jacks needed only to run out the clock and maintain their lead. But disaster struck 6:49 in when a slashing penalty, coupled with a bench infraction, sent two Jacks players to the box for two minutes.
“We took a penalty, and then we took one on the bench as well,” said Gerber.
“We have to be more disciplined, but at the same time we have to realize that we can’t get ourselves into those situations, especially when we have a 4-3 lead. At the end of the day, you can say what you want about the officiating, but it’s our own fault. We just can’t play that way, especially when we have the lead.”
These turned out to be the deciding minutes of the game as Norwich, with a two-man advantage, scored not once but twice on the power play, tipping the game 5-4 in their favour.
This was the end for the Jacks. Pulling their goalie, Ryan Porter, from the net in a bid to knot things up only served to provide the Merchants two easy goals in the last minute of play. The game ended 7-4 in favour of the visitors.
“Our team’s been coming out of the gate strong the last two games, noted Pickering right after the match. “We were up 4-0 on Ayr two minutes into the second and then we let them come back.”
Suffering two straight losses, the Jacks (7-7-0-1) have taken a beating in the standings, slipping to seventh place from fifth last weekend. The team is still within striking distance of the closest two teams ahead them, New Hamburg (6-8-13) and Norwich (8-8-1-0).
“We’ve had a short bench but it’s not really an excuse for letting the lead slip away from us late in the game. It’s unacceptable to be losing like this; something’s got to change. We have the team to win, that’s the problem. That’s why everyone’s so frustrated because we clearly can win the league,” he added.
This weekend, the Jacks will be hosting the New Hamburg Firebirds Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., before heading over to Burford to face the Bulldogs (1-15) Sunday.
“This is a weekend going in here where we need both wins,” said Gerber.
“The league is really starting to tighten up now. Some of the teams that had slow starts are coming on and the teams that had good starts are still ahead of us. So we need to start winning some hockey games here.”
Applejack Brady Gerber at the Saturday match-up against the Norwich Merchants in Wellesley.
A sweater commerating the life of longtime Applejacks volunteer Paul MacDonald, who passed away Aug. 31 at the age of 62, was hoisted to the rafters at Saturday’s game.