With a split last weekend, the Wellesley Applejacks closed out their five-game home stand with a 3-2 record, good enough to climb up a spot in the Midwestern Junior C Hockey League standings and pull within a point of their rivals from Tavistock and Norwich.But there is still plenty of room for improvement, notes coach Tim Robb.
“We need to work on making better decisions with the puck,” he said. “Ayr capitalized on some of our poor decision-making on Saturday, and it’s not just the decisions that we made with the puck, we also need to move the puck a lot quicker.”
The Ayr Centennials, the division’s top squad at 17-4-0, crushed the Jacks at the Wellesley Arena 7-3 on November 22.
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It was all Ayr right from the get go, as the Centennials scored three goals in the first period including a shorthanded marker at 16:06.
“They have a great team. In my opinion, and I’m sure not even just mine, they could compete in Junior B,” Robb said about Ayr. “They are a big team and they are fast and smart.”
Early in the second, the Centennials notched another shorthanded goal to extend their lead to 4-0.
Wellesley got one back soon after (Paul Morra from Jake Wilkinson and Jacob Younger), but the visitors piled on a couple more of their own within the next two minutes to go up 6-1.
The scoring kept coming in the middle stanza, as Morra (Josh Bickell) and Wilkinson (Tyler Doeing, Bickell) each found the back of the net to get the Jacks back in the game.
But things calmed down in the third, as Ayr put the dagger in at 12:47 and skated away with the victory.
“I thought we actually did a fairly decent job against them,” Robb said. “The first period was really bad for us; they capitalized on every mistake that we made. Then they continued to capitalize on us in the second period, so we made a goaltending change. It wasn’t because Timmy (Bester) was playing bad, it was just to try to spark our bench. So Brayden Bruce went in and played well. We got a little spark and popped a couple in ourselves, but we just didn’t have the horses that they’ve got.”
While the result was disappointing, Robb said the loss provided a “good test for our group to see what they need to do to compete with the top teams.”
On the previous evening the Jacks had a much better showing, as they dominated Burford 6-1.
“It was a very good win,” Rob said. “We had all four lines playing well and I think getting a couple goals in the first put them behind and they never caught up.”
The top line of Matt Schieck, Sean McEwan and Cal Jefferies were fantastic, he added.
“The three of them together I thought really controlled the game. Every time they were on the ice they were a threat, whether they scored or not, because most of the play was in Burford’s end.”
Schieck opened the scoring on the power play at 6:28 from Jefferies and Coleton Madge.
Next, McEwan tickled the twine at 10:22 from Jefferies and Schieck.
Finally, Schieck capped off an impressive period of action with another power play goal at 18:53, assisted by McEwan and Justin Plant.
“As a team in total, I think we played with a lot of discipline,” Robb said. “The guys from Burford certainly had a lot to say to our guys and they were looking to get into some of the extracurricular activities, but we did a good job of sticking to our game. I am really proud of them for being disciplined.”
In the second, Morra extended the Jacks’ lead to four, with an assist from Justin Lebold.
The Bulldogs would get one back at 15:58, but the third was all Wellesley.
Reid Denstedt (Blake Hetherington, Tyler Seguin) and Alex Uttley (Chris Beauchesne) each added goals in the final frame to seal the deal.
The Jack’s front office was also busy last weekend, adding a couple of players to the fold.
Justin Plant joins the blue line from the Delhi Travellers.
“Justin is a very welcome edition to our back end,” Robb said. “He’s a pretty smart hockey player. He is big, strong and physical, which is something that the team needed on the back end. I think he will also help slow the play down a little bit for the guys because he doesn’t make too many poor decisions with the puck.
On offense, Josh Bickell joins the fray from the Tavistock Braves.
“Josh hasn’t played for a little while and is maybe a little bit rusty, but he competes and skates hard,” Robb said. “He is a smart hockey player and we are really looking forward to what he can do for us this year and down the line.”
The Jacks looked to bounce back with two tough road games on Thursday in Ayr and Friday against New Hamburg. Next week, the Jacks travel to Tavistock for a Friday evening match and return home Sunday for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop against Norwich.