Home ice advantage wasn’t needed for the Wellesley Applejacks, who continued the early season road trip last weekend by beating Norwich and Delhi.
With three wins and one loss so far, the Jacks sit third in the league, behind Paris and Ayr.
“We came out a little bit slow against Norwich I thought, but as the game went on it got better. We got stronger and fortunately enough we came out with the win. It wasn’t really good but we got better,” head coach Brad Gerber said.
In Norwich on Friday, the Merchants were hot out of the gate. Zach Morrison scored less than 90 seconds into the game, assisted by Riley Monture and Brandon Velda.
Wellesley took full advantage of a power play 12 minutes later, and Scott Martin (Nicholas Breault, Joe Heath) evened the score 1-1. Norwich fired back on a power play of their own, as Morrison scored again. Assists came from Derek Slaght and Monture.
The Jacks evened it up again in the second frame, as Garrett Schultz, helped by Brenden Goran, scored while shorthanded.
“It was one of those games where you’re pleased as a coach but at the same time you know you’ve got to get better because they’re going to get better. Norwich right now, they’ve got kind of a short bench and they’ve got some roster spots open, so you know they’re going to get better and we have to get better as well,” Gerber said.
It was late in the third before Wellesley pulled ahead with a goal from Sean McEwan (Tyson Bender, Matthew Lantz). But Norwich’s Troy Lamoure used a power play opportunity to score, tying it up 3-3, and sending the game into overtime. Monture and Morrison provided assists.
Wellesley brought home the win when Greg Huber (Brady Gerber) scored halfway through the overtime period.
“It was a road win, so I think we showed a lot of character. We trailed the first two periods, but we did take the lead in the third period. Then they scored late to tie it up and then just to show the character, to keep our heads in the game and then pull it off in overtime, I thought was a good teambuilding game for us,” Gerber said.
They headed to Delhi on Sunday for an afternoon tilt, and another check in the win column for Wellesley.
Delhi got on the board first with a marker from Jared Ebdon (Colin Vandaele, Jordan Betzold) at 2:26 in the first. Wellesley’s Shultz (Goran) took some pressure off the Jacks with a goal of his own late in the first.
The Travellers dominated the second period, with goals from Nevin Guenther (Nathan Stackhouse, Quin Kramer), and Nick Love (Mitchell Graham). Wellesley lessened the gap at 13:01 as Joe Heath found the back of the net. He was helped by Shultz and Huber.
Gerber said they started slow again against Delhi, and didn’t play well for the first two periods.
“If we play like that against some other teams in the league we won’t be in the game for very long. Fortunately enough we were still in the game going into the third period and we still had time to come back and win. [We were] just not getting involved, not playing physical enough, too much reaching for the puck, just not playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played, for 40 minutes at least,” Gerber said.
Between periods he said the coaching staff told the players to play hard and go to the places on the ice where you’re going to get goals. He commends the older players for leading by example, and getting the team on the right track in the third frame.
“There were a couple of our veteran players that really stood up and took the team and led them. I think Cal Jefferies was one. He had a really good game, not only on the ice but he also kind of got the boys going in the dressing room. His leadership skills were very valuable in the situation we were in,” Gerber said.
The score stayed in Delhi’s favor until 13:24 in the third when McEwan scored his second of the weekend, assisted by Jefferies and David Elford. That really got the ball rolling, as Heath gave the Jacks the lead, unassisted. And then as Delhi pulled their goalie to add an attacker, Elford put the game away with a shot into the empty net, ending it 5-3. McEwan and Jefferies provided assists.
Delhi went winless last season, but Gerber says they’re an improved team now and the Jacks were surprised how good they are compared to last season. Aside from Jefferies, Gerber notes Scott Martin had a solid weekend on defense, helping on both ends of the ice.
“If you have a good penalty kill and a good power play you’ll do well in this league. Obviously in practice we have to keep working on that stuff and again we’re a new team, a lot of new faces, a lot of new boys on the team, coming together as a team, we’ve got a long way to go with that as well,” Gerber said.
The two wins on the weekend are encouraging for the Jacks who posted a 13-27-0 record last season, finishing second last in the league. But Gerber notes they have lots of work to do before facing more experienced teams.
“We’re quite pleased with the 3-1 record as a coaching staff. We’ve got two more to go but we are looking forward to coming home with at least a .500 record and hoping that we can get some games under our belt in our own arena,” Gerber said.
The Jacks have the weekend off. Their next game is Oct. 7 in Delhi, followed by Norwich on Oct. 9, before their first home game on Oct. 10 versus New Hamburg.