Optimism is high as the Wellesley Applejacks are only two weeks away from their first tryout camp, set for Aug. 20 at the St. Clements Arena.
“We’re pretty excited, we’ve had a good recruiting year and we’ve got a number of key guys coming back,” said head coach Kevin Fitzpatrick, adding that the team is looking to add between seven to nine new bodies to their roster – a significant improvement over the 15 players they had to replace before the start of last season.
“We’ve got some good leadership and we’re really excited about the core of our team coming back.”
The last time the Jacks touched the ice was on Mar. 3 in a 5-3 loss to the Ayr Centennials, who ousted Wellesley in just five games in the first round of the Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League playoffs. Over the course of the regular season, the team posted a record of 17-14-4, the 38 points good for sixth spot in the McConnell Conference.
The team is hoping they can shake the injury bug that decimated the lineup in the second half of last season as well. Only one skater, Matt Aspden, played in all 35 games for the team, while key contributors like captain Rob Hinschberger (29 games played), defenceman Stephen Lewtas (24 games played), and rookie of the year Michael Forster (25 games played) each missed significant time.
“We felt we had a lot better team than we showed last year, but it’s just we were so beat up and injured we couldn’t do much,” the coach said. “But we’re going to be fast and I think we’ve got some great goal scoring and goaltending as well.”
The team was bracing to lose Forster – second on the team in scoring with 14 goals and 17 assists last season – because he was scheduled to travel to Australia to work until Christmas, but those plans changed and he should be on the roster for the entire season.
In spite of that good news, it appears that the injury bug has already bitten the team, however, with Hinschberger breaking a wrist after falling off a ladder this summer.
Nevertheless, the coach is optimistic about what the new season is going to bring.
He said that many of the players have been playing ball hockey on Tuesday nights in Wellesley to not only get their timing back but to help with the team bonding. The team also entered a team in the upcoming Don Green Memorial Ball Tournament as well.
“Guys are just trying to get together and get some bonding going and I think that’s a reflection on the core of the kids and we’re pretty excited.”
Tryouts start Aug. 20 at St. Clements arena at 2 p.m. The camp will cost $30 and anyone interested in trying out should contact Rick Grebinski at 656-3111. The team is also looking for an assistant trainer for the season, and anyone interested in the position can also contact Grebinski.