Kevin Fitzpatrick, head coach of the Wellesley Applejacks, is optimistic about his team’s chances this year as he prepares for the teams first tryout camp, set for Aug. 25 at the St. Clements Arena.
“We’re pretty excited, we’ve had a good recruiting year and we’ve got some key guys coming back. From all accounts we have had a really good offseason,” said Fitzpatrick, adding that the team is looking to add between six and 10 new bodies to its roster.
The Jacks lost eight players at the end of the 2011-12 season due to aging out of the league.
“We lost some key players to age that had a pretty good season last year. We were a young team last year and we are hoping to get a bit younger this year to spread our ages out a little bit so that we don’t lose a lot of players all at once because of age,” said Fitzpatrick.
The last time the Jacks touched the ice was on Mar. 1 in a 5-4 over time 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 19-14-2, the 40 points good for fifth spot in the McConnell Conference.
This season the team will be playing fewer games as the league has combined both C and D leagues. The season has been shortened by 25 days to accommodate the transition of the leagues. The regular season will end on Jan. 20, whereas last year the season ran until Feb. 15.
Last season was a frustrating one for the Jacks, who were in second place until injuries started to pile up and ultimately cost the team a good playoff run.
The coaching staff is hoping they can shake the injury bug that decimated the lineup in the second half of last season. As well, the shortened season may just help.
“We will be starting playoffs before we were hurt last year,” said Fitzpatrick. “We will be playing a lot of games early in the year.”
The bump up to junior C is something the players are looking forward to, said Fitzpatrick. The Jacks will be playing all the same teams as last year with the addition of New Hamburg.
“That will be a good test for us. (New Hamburg) had a superb year last year and they are one of the better teams in the league.”
“We think we have a strong team. We were a strong team last year until the injuries came on and we never got to see what the team’s potential was because we were sidelined with those injuries.”
Many of the players have been keeping in touch over the off season and have entered a team into the Don Green Memorial Ball Tournament to not only get their timing back but to help with the team bonding.
This season also marks the 25th anniversary for the Jacks. To celebrate the milestone, members of the executive team have planned an alumni golf tournament. All former players, coaches, trainers and executive members are being beckoned to come and play a round of golf and share memories.
The tournament will be held on Sept. 8 at the Foxwood Country Club in Baden, with an entrance fee of $100 per golfer. For more information contact Rick Grebinski at (519) 656-3111.
Tryouts for the Jacks start at 3 p.m. Aug. 25 at St. Clements arena. The camp will cost $30 and anyone interested in making the squad should contact Grebinski or Fitzpatrick.