The Wellesley Applejacks have started the 2016 playoffs with a win and a loss over the weekend against their first-round matchup, the Tavistock Braves. After opening with a 6-4 victory, the Jacks dropped the second game 5-4, with both games at the Wellesley arena.
On Saturday night, the Applejacks fought hard on home ice for a win in the first game of the postseason. It was a passionate and emotional game for the boys, with the team racking up 54 penalty minutes to Tavistock’s 28 penalty minutes.
Saturday started on a high note for the Jacks, with Jake Wilkinson scoring the first goal of the game less than one minute after the puck dropped, assisted by Brenden Goran and Nick Palmer. Tavistock wasn’t having it, however, and quickly followed up with a goal of their own from Josh Borys (Ocean Check, Cody Bateman). After a nearly evenly matched back and forth game, Spencer Brick added a goal to Wellesley’s side of the score board, with help from Brady Gerber and Braidon Kerbs. The Braves quickly shot back with another from Borys just 10 seconds later, assisted by Jacob Rooke and Check.
Then, things started to get rough in the second, with 11 penalties from Wellesley, and only three from Tavistock. Head coach Brad Gerber says the emotional play was to be expected with such a young team. Many have never been to the playoffs at this level of hockey before.
“What we’ve learned from this past weekend is that we have to worry about ourselves. Let’s just play our game, don’t let the emotions get to us. It was the first time at the playoff level in this league for a lot of our players on the team, and you know, I think the emotions got to them a bit at times,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with that, but there is a fine line and we have to keep it under control, especially with penalties and stuff. Again, five-on-five we are a good team and if we can stay out of the box, we are going to be just fine.”
Tavistock took over the second period, getting two goals ahead of Wellesley, the first on the powerplay from Jake Wiffen, from Borys and Kieran Van Boekel just 21 seconds into the period. The second goal from the Braves was put in the net by Jamie Shoemaker, assisted by Wiffen.
Alex Uttley, a veteran on the Applejacks, brought Tavistock’s lead down to one with a short-handed, unassisted goal at 15:50 in the second. Gerber says Uttley is a vital part of the team’s lineup and adds valuable experience to the ice and the locker room.
“He just has that drive,” said Gerber. “You can tell he has played hockey before and that is so important. We definitely need our veterans to help us through and help the young guys get their feet wet. Once they get there, they will be fine. It is a different kind of intensity (in the playoffs).”
Heading into the third, the Applejacks must have felt a strong wind behind them. Penalty minutes were minimal, and the team scored three goals, bringing the game to the win column with a final score of 6-4. Cal Jefferies, assisted by Nick Mercier and Uttley scored quickly, just 40 seconds in. Shaun Pickering scored unassisted, and Mercier, also unassisted, guaranteed the Applejacks win with a powerplay goal at 17:57.
On Sunday afternoon, Wellesley wasn’t as successful, but still played in a high scoring game, which is unusual for playoff hockey. The game ended with a score of 5-4 for Tavistock, tying up the series early.
The Braves got the momentum going in the first with a goal from Angus Rowland on the powerplay, assisted by Borys and Check, while Shoemaker was sitting pretty on a hooking call. Wellesley fired back with a goal from Goran, assisted by Uttley and Justin Lebold just before the period ended.
The Braves dominated the second, with two goals. The first from Maverick Petrie on the powerplay with an assist from Rooke, and Rowland’s second of the game, assisted by Petrie.
Heading into the third period down by two goals, Wellesley did what they could, but the Braves got two more goals past goalie Ryan Hergott, both from Rooke.
The last 10 minutes of play, the Applejacks made a last-ditch effort to overcome their four goal deficit, but only managed three. Goran scored two, rounding out the game to earn himself a hat trick, both assisted by Uttley and the second also assisted by Jefferies. Uttley, on the powerplay and with an extra attacker on the ice, scored with just 20 seconds left in the game, closing the goal gap to one, but it just wasn’t enough.
This coming weekend, Wellesley will be traveling to Tavistock to take on the Braves for games three and four of the series, and Gerber hopes the team can get their penalties in check, and pick up where they left off after last Saturday’s win.
“We definitely want to get that momentum back. We had it after game one, but they took it from us.
“Leading into the weekend, we just need to worry about ourselves and stay out of the penalty box,” he said, adding that playing in Tavistock could actually give the Jacks a bit of an advantage this coming weekend. “We don’t mind playing in Tavistock. The ice surface is a little bit bigger and I think that gives us a little bit of an advantage actually. We don’t mind playing on the road at all. Our road record has been as good as our home record all season long and I think sometimes, getting on the road, the boys have a bit of a different game prep and it doesn’t bother us one bit. It doesn’t matter where we are playing, the boys are ready to go.”
The series moves to Tavistock this weekend. The fun resumes on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The second game of the weekend starts at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 14.