The Wellesley Applejacks finished out their short preseason schedule strong with a 3-2 victory over the Mitchell Hawks September 3, and now the coaching staff is looking towards finalizing their 22-man roster before the season opener September 18 in Woodstock.
“We were much better than the first game, mostly because we had a lot more guys that are already signed in the lineup,” head coach Brad Gerber said. “We had a little more experience in terms of veteran players, which makes a big difference in junior hockey.”
With 18 players signed heading into the final two practices, there are still some tough decisions for management to make, Gerber added. But overall, they are pleased with the way their players, rookies and veterans alike, have been playing throughout training camp and the pair of exhibition games against Mitchell.
“We’ve still got lots to work on, but I thought we were fast,” Gerber said. “We really started to show our speed and when we did, that’s when we scored our goals. Obviously there is still lots to work on in terms of playing in their end, playing without the puck and of course, playing in our own end, so we will be working hard on all of those things.”
The regular season begins with the annual Wellesley Fair road trip, which will see the squad play the first six contests away from their home rink.
It’s going to be a challenge, Gerber said, but he is confident the team can get off to a strong start.
“Obviously the team is used to it,” he said. “It’s a tough way to start the season, but if we can play decent hockey and come away with a good record, it’ll be a great way to start off the year.”
The Jacks’ preseason schedule was cut a bit short this year, with many other teams in their conference starting their regular season a week early. That just means Gerber and his staff will have to use their last remaining practices to get the guys in game shape.
“The biggest thing we’re going to be working on is playing without the puck, and making sure that everyone is accountable on the ice,” Gerber said. “The guys without the puck are going to have to finish all of their checks and also work towards creating turnovers. Forechecking smart and teaching the guys when to go and when not to go on the forecheck is very important. And also, we’re always going to be stressing the importance of taking care of our own end. Everybody always has a job to do and we need to play as a team.”
The Jacks’ regular season begins September 18 in Woodstock against the Braves. The home opener is set for October 10 against New Hamburg.