Marking a first for himself and for the Wellesley Applejacks, Brad Gerber was named the 2015-16 coach of the year for the Midwestern Junior C Hockey League this week.
The Jacks finished the regular season in fourth place out of nine teams, a huge improvement from their eighth-place finish last season under a different head coach.
“It’s a real honour,” said Gerber, who started his first stint as a junior C coach this season with the Jacks.
“There are a lot of well-coached hockey teams in this league. There are obviously other coaches who’ve been around and done good jobs as well,” Gerber said.
He says the award isn’t just for him though, it’s for the whole coaching staff.
“I’ve had some really good support from my guys, Brock Gerber, Ryan Gerber, and Ted Jefferies – the coaching staff. All of these guys they played their role and they played it well. They’ve all done great jobs and they make my job easier. It’s definitely a combined effort there,” Gerber said.
A lot of the credit has to go to the players too, he notes.
“They’re a great bunch of kids to coach. Obviously you’re only as good as your players when they’re expected to buy into what we’re trying to tell them as far as systems and how we want the game played. When they buy in it makes our job easy. It’s all around a team effort for sure,” Gerber said.
An Applejacks coach has never earned this award before, and general manager Bill Grebinski couldn’t be happier for Gerber and the team.
“We’re now on the map in the league as one of the top teams and top competitive teams. Brad got the accolades because we did move through the ranks and solidified fourth place, really,” Grebinski said.
He agrees that the award is for Brad and the assistant coaches. He says they operate as a team and work closely on every decision, which is important for a solid coaching staff.
“I’m very happy with the way the coaches are handling the team. I’m very happy with our successes. I’m happy that we’re in fourth place and have home advantage in the first round of playoffs and I’m just excited to see what we can accomplish this year,” Grebinski said.
He says the players have really enjoyed playing together so far this season. Cal Jefferies who earned his 100th point as an Applejack last month already said he’ll be returning to the team next season as an over-ager, Grebinski adds.
It’s expected such an improvement from last season will help draw in some more talent for next year’s team.
“I think a lot of the younger players now will look at Wellesley as a viable place to play. We’re a smaller market so a lot of players look to the bigger markets to play. They think the teams are a lot more competitive. But that’s not the case. We’ve established that this year, that a mid-size market as ourselves can compete. We’ve attracted some talent, we added some players on the team to fill some holes we had. I’m extremely impressed and happy with the performance of the guys and the way they’ve come together. I’m extremely happy and impressed with where we are right now,” Grebinski said.
The Jacks take on the Tavistock Braves in Wellesley on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. for their first playoff game.