Defeated by the Woodstock Navy Vets in the first game of the season, the Wellesley Applejacks turned around the next day to beat the Burford Bulldogs in double overtime.
“Anytime you play two games on the road on a weekend you’ve got to be pleased with a split. We’ll take that,” head coach Brad Gerber said.
Woodstock won 4-0 over Wellesley on September 18, with goals from Jake Schneider, (Chris Nauts, Austin Richardson), Max Racicot (Richardson, Dylan Wettlaufer), Chris Thompson (Jack Taylor, Jeremy Racicot), and Wettlaufer.
Both teams racked up penalties, as Wellesley spent 25 minutes in the box to Woodstock’s 23. Woodstock’s Cam Leslie was ejected from the game, along with Wellesley’s Greg Huber and Riley Bester.
“Considering all the circumstances I think the guys played pretty well,” Gerber said. “Obviously we played a team that is loaded with a bunch of veterans and were excited about their home opener. Going into the game we knew we were going to have to weather the storm for the first 10 minutes, which I thought we did pretty well. They did score a goal late in the first period to take a 1-0 lead but overall our first period wasn’t bad at all. That’s all you can ask for.”
The Jacks played better in the second frame, carrying the play more, Gerber said. It stayed 1-0 until there were 20 seconds to go in the second and Woodstock pulled ahead 2-0.
“Obviously that was a tough one to swallow – a bit of a game-changer right there. We thought we’d go into second intermission still down one and actually playing quite well but they got the late goal,” Gerber said.
Gerber said the team skated well and they thought they’d be able to make a game of it in the third, but a couple of quick goals from the Navy Vets put the game away.
“Overall for our first game I thought our preparation was pretty good and I thought the boys held their own in a very tough barn to play in,” Gerber said.
The Jacks weren’t discouraged as they travelled to Burford the following night to bring home a win. Burford’s Ryan Cadwell got things rolling in the first, putting one past Jacks goalie Ryan Porter. He was assisted by Tyler Hinde and Adam Harris.
“We put it to the boys that this was a big game and we needed to come out fast, which is what we did. We came out and we skated well, dominated the play for the first period. Again we weren’t rewarded. We were down 1-0 after the first period, but the play of the boys was very good though. I thought we carried the play and just didn’t get the bounces. Sometimes you need those bounces to get you going,” Gerber said.
Burford increased their lead with a goal from Harris (Owen Hinch) in the second. Gerber said that second goal made the coaching staff a little worried. But things turned around when Wellesley got on the board for the first time late in the second with a successful shot on net by Tyson Bender (Cal Jefferies, Sean McEwan).
Bender’s the youngest player on the team and an Elmira native.
“You could just feel the relief on the bench. The boys just at that moment stopped squeezing their sticks and everything seemed to go a lot better,” Gerber said.
They had a feeling once they got one goal they’d get a few more because they’d been playing well enough that it was only a matter of time. They were right.
Jacks veteran Jefferies tied the game up in the third, helped by Brendan Goran. They managed to kill a two-man disadvantage late in the third period to take them into overtime.
“There’s a new rule now in Junior C hockey going into overtime. You start the overtime 4-on-4, and after five minutes if it’s still tied you go down to 3-on-3. Once we went to 3-on-3 we wanted to get our fastest guys out there, guys who could be the game breakers, and sure enough that’s what happened,” Gerber said.
A minute into double overtime Wellesley’s David Elford sealed the deal, giving Wellesley its first win of the season.
“They turned the puck over at our blue line, and one of our guys jumped on it and was gone and buried a very nice goal to win the game for us. It was a nice feeling to get that first win under our belt,” Gerber said.
He said riding the bus to both away games he can see the players are coming together off the ice. It’ll take some time to get into a groove on the ice with each other though. With only three returning players from last year’s team, the team is made up of players from all sorts of hockey backgrounds.
“I think as a team we have to learn to play more patient without the puck, just doing little things that are going to win hockey games, especially when you’re on the road you can’t push the game too much. You need to play a patient game and eventually turnovers will happen, and that’s when some good things happen,” Gerber said.
The Jacks will travel out of town this weekend to play the Norwich Merchants on September 25 and the Delhi Travellers on September 27. Their first home game is October 10 versus the New Hamburg Firebirds.