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Jacks showing good form as season winds down

A busy weekend at home with three games in as many days earned the Wellesley Applejacks three out of a possible six points.

They pulled out a resounding victory over Delhi on Friday, trouncing the Travellers 9-0. The Jacks followed up the following night with a close 4-3 loss to the top team in the league, the Ayr Centennials. And it took 60 minutes of regular play, plus two periods of overtime for the New Hamburg Firebirds to beat the Jacks 5-4 on Sunday.

Against Delhi, the Jacks came out strong, scoring three times in the first period. Nick Breault, Spencer Brick, and Shaun Pickering provided the goals, assisted by Nick Mercier, Justin Lebold (2), Mark Lebold, Brady Gerber, and Alex Uttley.

“We had a good start. We got ahead of them early, which we wanted to do,” said head coach Brad Gerber. “And then after that we concentrated on the little things, taking care of our end. Overall we thought it was a good solid win, did the little things right and played patient in our end so things worked out for us.”

Wellesley’s goalie Ryan Porter let nothing past him, as Alex Uttley put back two goals in the second frame, helped by Nick Palmer, Scott Martin, and Breault. Porter stopped all 27 shots that came his way that game.

And the beating continued in the third period, with Wellesley’s Brick, Joe Heath (2), and Cal Jefferies scoring to make it a 9-0 win. Assists came from Jefferies, Martin, Matthew Lantz, Uttley, Jake Wilkinson, and Heath in the third.

Alex Uttley scores shorthanded and unassisted on New Hamburg goalie Ryan Purcell in the double overtime 5-4 loss for the Wellesley Applejacks.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Alex Uttley scores shorthanded and unassisted on New Hamburg goalie Ryan Purcell in the double overtime 5-4 loss for the Wellesley Applejacks. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Despite 10 power play opportunities, the Travellers were unable to score even once, as the Jacks racked up 40 minutes of penalties.

Playing host to Ayr on Saturday, the Jacks came the closest they’ve ever been to beating the first-place team, losing with just a one-goal difference.

Wellesley scored in under two minutes on a power play, as Centennial and former Elmira Sugar King Cash Seraphim sat in the box for slashing. Palmer was the goal scorer for the Applejacks, assisted by Mercier and Justin Lebold.

Seraphim scored his own power play marker a minute later, assisted by Zachary Masterson and fellow former Sugar King Mitch Klie, while Lantz was out for a high sticking call.

Breault (Jefferies, Palmer) scored to give the Jacks the lead again, but it was short lived as Seraphim earned his second power play goal of the night, assisted by Masterson and Klie again.

Wellesley inched ahead to go into the second period 3-2 with Breault’s second goal of the night, helped by Palmer and Jackson Keller.

But the Jacks wouldn’t put the puck in the back of the net for the rest of the game. Ayr’s Quinn Diamond (Jake Whibbs, John Nay), and Cole Cummings (Mackenzie Kemp, Connor MacLean), gave the Centennials the two goals they needed to win the game.

“I thought Saturday was a very well played game as well. Obviously Ayr’s a first place team and if you can stay with them that long or compete with them that long you’re doing pretty good. We competed hard and unfortunately we couldn’t get the two points. I think it showed we can compete with anybody in this league, so that’s always a good feeling,” Gerber said.

While the Jacks would have loved to add two points to their record for the win, it’s a significant improvement from previous matchups with Ayr. Earlier in the season the Jacks have lost 5-1, 6-2, 6-2, and 7-3 to the Centennials.

“There are losses that are good losses and I’d call that a good loss on Saturday night, just the way we played and competed, and just the intensity level the boys played with. They stuck up for each other and I think it pulled the team even tighter together,” Gerber said.

For their final home game of the weekend the Jacks pushed the game into double overtime, but weren’t able to get that last goal to secure the win. The Firebirds scored late in the first on a power play goal from Andrew Boer (Jerry Ennett, Tyler Kleine), while Uttley was in the box for boarding.

Jefferies put the Jacks on the board 10 minutes into the second frame on a power play, helped by Wilkinson and Mercier.

Uttley gave Wellesley its first lead of the game with a shorthanded, unassisted goal five minutes later.

New Hamburg tied it again with a goal from Quinten Haddock (Brandon Quan) to go into the third 2-2.

“Sunday I thought we had a really slow start. Obviously playing three games in three days and having the third one a 2 o’clock start, I thought we just didn’t have our legs the first period and it showed. I thought we got a little better in the second and the third, but I thought we had a much stronger game Saturday night,” Gerber said.

A goal from Firebird David Jennings (Carter Tracey, Quan) and one apiece from Wellesley’s Uttley (Gerber, Lantz) and Brick (Braidon Kerbs, Mercier) gave Jacks fans hope they were going to pull a win out of the game.

But as New Hamburg pulled their goalie to add an extra man, Ennett scored to tie the game up with just six seconds left on the clock.

The first five-minute period of overtime didn’t end the game, but in just under a minute into double overtime, Ennett slipped the puck past Porter to finish it 5-4.

“I give the boys credit for battling and having the lead that late in the game, giving us a chance to win. Any time a team scores with six seconds to go it’s a downer for everybody and then to have to get going again for overtime, I don’t think we ever got our legs going again after they scored that goal,” Gerber said.

The Jacks have a 16-17-2 record now and are just three points behind fourth place Tavistock.

With another three games this coming weekend Gerber says the players need to better prepare themselves, by getting enough sleep and eating right, so they have energy for that third game on Sunday. They’ve been working on their four-on-four and three-on-three play this week in preparation for more overtime games.

“I know the guys know what they’re supposed to do, but you can’t miss a check. You’ve got to hang onto your guy when you don’t have the puck and you’ve just got to be aware. I think coming down the stretch here all the teams want the points as bad as we do, so there’s going to be tight games and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more overtime games. So we just want to make sure we’re prepared if and when it happens again,” Gerber said.

The Jacks hit the road for three away games this weekend. They’ll face Woodstock on Friday at 7:45 p.m., Burford on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Paris on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Their next home game is Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. versus Tavistock, their last regular-season game before playoffs.

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