The Wellesley Applejacks didn’t let a little ice storm and power outage stop them from doling out accolades at their annual awards banquet on March 24.
The Junior C team gathered at Kennedy’s Restaurant in St. Agatha for dinner by candlelight – there was no other choice – and to recognize the players who led the team to a fourth place finish this season.
Kevin Kleihauer took control of the microphone for the event, as he so often does at home games for the Jacks.
The trophy for total points this season came as no surprise, as it was awarded to Cal Jefferies.
Brady Gerber was given the Don Green Memorial Trophy.
“The Don Green Memorial Trophy, also known as our most sportsmanlike award, is in memory of Don Green, who also was an avid sportsman, playing baseball and hockey for the Wellesley Queens and Wellesley Merchants hockey team. Don unfortunately passed away as a result of a car accident in North Easthope Township on Aug. 28, 1984. The new sound system in the arena has been donated by the Don Green memorial fund that was started in his name,” Kleihauer said.
The Coach’s Award went to Brenden Goran for his talent, dedication, and commitment to the Wellesley Applejacks hockey program.
Head coach Brad Gerber took a moment to explain what Goran brought to the team.
“We had an early camp skate in Waterloo one night and we saw this guy and we loved him right away. Now he was a little excited about playing for us. He thought well you sign me today or you’re not going to sign me at all. And he left the arena. If I would have known what he was going to bring to our arena this year we would have signed him that day. Brenden’s done so many things for us on and off the ice. All the boys love him, they call him dad. And I’m so excited that he’s moving back next year and he’s going to bring even more for us. … We can compete with anybody when we have guys like this,” Gerber said.
Most Valuable Defenseman went to Nick Mercier, who received the John Igley Memorial Trophy.
“John Igley grew up in Baden and attended Baden Public and Waterloo Oxford District High School. John played his minor hockey in New Hamburg and two years for the Tavistock Braves. Clearly we’re not holding that against him. He was also a member of the Wellesley Applejacks as a defenseman from 1991 through 1993. John passed away suddenly on Sept. 25, 1996 playing hockey, the game he loved best,” Kleihauer said.
The Rookie of the Year Award was shared by Ryan Porter and Nicholas Breault.
Joe Heath was awarded the Martin Novack Memorial Trophy as the unsung player of the season.
“Martin, himself, grew up in Kitchener where he played his minor hockey. He was a member of the Wellesley Applejacks from 1995 through 1997. Martin was killed in a motorcycle accident in Kitchener in the summer of 1997. He enjoyed his time playing hockey with the Applejacks and is remembered fondly,” Kleihauer said.
Most improved player of the season, or the S.J. Campbell Memorial Trophy went to Nathan Schlupp. The trophy is in memory of Steve Campbell who was an avid baseball and hockey player. He also was the principal of Wellesley Public School and passed away on Nov. 11, 1979 while playing broomball.
“At the beginning of the season we started out fresh, a whole bunch of new faces, new bodies. We liked Nathan in training camp, we signed him. And to start the season the first half dozen games or so Nathan was a healthy scratch. But as the year went on this guy here was so dependable, unbelievable. He improved big time. He’s one of those guys you don’t notice, but that’s a good thing. If we don’t notice a defenseman he’s doing his job, game in and game out,” Gerber said.
The Most Valuable Local Player Award, or the Wellesley Apple Products Trophy was given to Sean McEwan. The Wellesley Apple Products Trophy was donated by Ralph Yantzi, owner of the Wellesley Cider Mill. He passed away suddenly in Arizona on Apr. 12, 1992.
Cal Jefferies received his second award of the night, team MVP.
“He wore a letter for us this year for a very good reason. He’s a very big part of our team. This guy, if you know the team, this guy plays through injuries.All year long he battled. The best teams that we played against put their best players against him. He still got us points. We are so fortunate that he’s got another year of Junior hockey left,” Gerber said.
Captain Justin Lebold, the only player aging out of the Applejacks this season, was given his #23 captain jersey as a thank you for his five years as an Applejack.
“Captain of the team, just did a phenomenal job in the dressing room. Justin out on the ice gave 100 per cent every shift, never quit. I think he was a true leader this year. He showed the guys what a true leader is all about,” said Rick Grebinski.
The team also thanked Brad Gerber for his first year as coach of the team, which earned him the 2015-16 MWJCHL Coach of the Year Award. He reminded the group that the award is for the whole coaching staff and the players were easy to coach.
“We had our last skate last Saturday night and what a turnout. These teenage boys, I’m sure they had a lot better things to do than come to Wellesley and talk to me and Ted Jefferies. Twenty one guys came out. Since then I’ve talked to them all, guys we’ve got 23 players that are eligible to return next year. Out of the 23 players every single one of them said if it works I want to come back. That’s amazing.”
He also reminded the boys there’s plenty of work to be done next season if they’re looking to continue their rise up the Junior C rankings.
“There’s better things to happen for this team. The team improved 18 points from last year, went from eighth place to fourth place, we won a round, but you know what, at the end of the day we haven’t won anything. You’ve got to come back, you’ve got to work hard all summer, and you’ve got to come back in the fall ready to play hockey. We need to get better and we all will if we stay on the same page,” Gerber said.