The Wellesley Applejacks’ season came to a disappointing but expected end on Wednesday as they fell 8-4 to the Ayr Centennials, who completed a four-game sweep of the first-round playoff series.The score was in keeping with the first three matches, 5-1, 8-1 and 11-2 blowouts.
There was hope for the Jacks on Wednesday when Sean McEwan (Alex Uttley, Chris Beauchesne) scored less than two minutes into the game. They held off the Centennials until the 14:04 mark when Jordan Pettitt (Tyler Mellish, Jake Whibbs) scored.
General manager Bill Grebinski said they knew it was going to be a tough series against Ayr because they’re a bigger, stronger and older team.
“They put up a heck of a game,” Grebinski said. “We knew coming in it was going to be a bit of a battle but these guys played on heart.”
Ayr increased their lead to 6-1 by the end of the second with goals from Jackson White, Brendan Schaefer, Austin Kovrig, Andrew Richard, and Carver Ormiston.
Wellesley staged a comeback in the third with three goals in less than four minutes. First, Matt Schieck scored unassisted, followed by Blake Hetherington (Justin Plant, Hayden Stewart) and Brady Gerber (Tyler Seguin, Reid Denstedt).
But Ayr sealed the deal with two more goals from Richard and Kovrig to end the Jacks’ 2014-15 season.
They end the season with 13 wins and 27 losses in regular play, plus the four playoff losses.
“We got banged up against Norwich in our last game, so when we came into the series we were really short on players,” Grebinski explained. “This game we had eight players that were out, so we had four associate players come up and help us with this game. So we were playing with young guys that filled in throughout the year, but just didn’t have that experience or playoff experience.”
The Jacks hosted the Centennials on Saturday (8-1) and trekked down to Ayr on Sunday (11-2). It was a brutal weekend to say the least. On home ice the Jacks were unable to score until 17:01 in the final period when team points leader Cal Jefferies buried it unassisted. Before that, seven goals were scored by Quinn Diamond, Anthony Pullia (2), Colin Schuringa, Logan Breechy, Carver Ormiston, Whibbs, and Sean Mitchell.
You can’t blame the high scoring on Applejack goalie Tim Bester though, who stopped 42 shots. Wellesley only managed to put 24 shots to Ayr’s goalie, Andre Keire. Penalties were also an issue for the Jacks as they spent 42 minutes in the box, to Ayr’s 18.
The beating continued the next night in Ayr as the Centennials finished the first frame with a 4-0 lead. Tyler Seguin and Jefferies were both able to use power play opportunities to score, bringing the game to within two goals. But Ayr responded with four more of their own in the second, and an additional three in the third. Wellesley assists came from Jefferies, Chris Beauchesne, Schieck and Sean McEwan.
The Jacks spent more time in the box than the Centennials again (28-16). Former Applejack who was traded to Ayr this season, Felix Lantaigne was ejected from the game. Wellesley’s Seguin was also ejected.
Grebinski said while he’s disappointed the season ended how it did, he’s excited for the next chapter.
“We built a foundation this year,” Grebinski said. “We knew we were going to have a young team this year. We had lost 12 players last year because they had aged out. We put all our eggs in the basket to win last year but when we didn’t get that we had to rebuild this year.”
They end the season in seventh place, just ahead of the winless Delhi Travellers. The Jacks allowed 166 goals against and scored just 117, a factor in the team’s .325 win percentage.
Head coach Tim Robb took a leave from the team as of Wednesday and wasn’t at the Jacks’ final game. He also wasn’t listed on the game sheet as the coach for the Sunday game. Robb took over the coaching position from Paul Wilkinson who left for personal reasons earlier in the season. Grebinksi said it’s still to be determined if he will be coaching next year. He said they will be speaking with him, and other candidates, in the offseason.
Grebinski said the organization focused on finding young, talented players this year to develop. The veterans were fundamental in mentoring them on the ins and outs of Junior C hockey. With the season barely over, Grebinski’s already got a glint in his eye about next season.
“The team is going to be relatively still young, but a bit more experienced. It’s going to be a much better team going forward, no doubt about it,” Grebinski said. “Our plan has been a two year plan, develop this year and next year. We’re a couple years away from really going for it and saying this is going to be the team that we’ll develop for the championship.”
Jefferies had the most goals of the season for the team at 16, and also the most assists at 20. Along with captain Reid Denstedt, they’re the only two players who played all 40 regular season games.
“We have some great prospects coming next year. The team’s going to be a lot different next year as far as size and age and what we need,” Grebinski said.