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Jacks open their season Friday night

The roster has been finalized for the Wellesley Applejacks’ 2013-14 season, and head coach Rob Way says that fans can expect two things above all: “A fair number of additions, and lots of speed.”

“Speed” is the word for the Wellesley OHA team as it enters its 27th season, and as Way described the new recruits of the lineup finalized on Monday, it was a concept that kept coming up. Defenceman Alex Stoody from Kitchener is “really fast;” Felix Lantaigne, a native of New Liskeard, is “very fast;” Cal Jeffries, formerly of Cambridge AAA, will bring “lots of speed.”

Wellesley Applejacks hopefuls shook off the summer cobwebs at a preseason game on September 7. The Jacks open the season Friday in New Hamburg.[Will Sloan / The Observer]
Wellesley Applejacks hopefuls shook off the summer cobwebs at a preseason game on September 7. The Jacks open the season Friday in New Hamburg. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
“We’re going to be a faster team than last year,” he said. “We’ve got some really good, young kids who are going to be fast. … We’ve got a nice mix of young and old, and I think it’s going to be a good season.”

The new recruits will be part of a lineup that Way says will have “a lot of speed upfront,” along with Waterloo midget AAA vets Sean McEwan, McKenzie Carter, Mackenzie Shantz, and defenceman Chris Beauchene; Cambridge minor midget alum Parker Wood; and Brayden Bruce from New Hamburg Minor Hockey.

Finalizing the lineup of newbies and veterans proved a challenge, with league rules allowing only four players born before 1992. Luke Rose, Cody Tapsell, Devon Wagner and league MVP goalie Josh Heer were the four over-age players selected from last year’s lineup.

“We had more over-agers than we could carry,” Way said. “We had to end up releasing kids who could have played on our team, who had the skills to play on our team. But we could only keep four over-age players.”

Heer will be playing a key role, said the coach.

“Josh was an MVP goalie in the league last year, so he gives us a lot of stability and a very important position – he’s one of our key over-agers.

“Cody and Devon and Luke all in their own ways bring experience and leadership and a certain calmness to the game, and those are important things that leaders can bring.”

The roster was finalized after a recruitment camp on August 17 and 18, as well as two preseason games against the Paris Mounties that brought disappointing results. The makeshift squad lost 6-3 on September 5, and lost again 4-3 at the St. Clements arena on September 7.

Way said that the games provided a learning opportunity.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we have the skill level to be a first-place team. What we have to learn as a team – and we saw it up and down during the two exhibition games – is the competition level has to be there every time,” he explained.

“We can’t teach these kids that when you go into the corner for the puck, you’ve got to come out first. Some of that is inherent. When you look at the NHL, the winning teams are the ones that have that every time they’re on the ice. We can move towards building that consistently.”

The Jacks start the season away from home, facing the New Hamburg Firebirds on September 13, followed by the Norwich Merchants (September 20) and the Ayr Centennials (September 26), a trio of teams that Way predicts will be the top three teams in the league.

The Jacks will not play on home ice at the Wellesley arena until they face the Centennials on October 5.

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