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

The Woolwich Observer - - SPORTS - FAISAL ALI

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.”

[FAISAL ALI / THE OB­SERVER]

Ap­ple­jack Brady Ger­ber at the Satur­day match-up against the Nor­wich Mer­chants in Welles­ley.

[FAISAL ALI / THE OB­SERVER]

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.

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