Before hitting the ice in Tavistock for the first game of the regular season, the Wellesley Applejacks have chosen their captains.
Wearing the ‘C’ on his jersey this year is Cal Jefferies. The 2016-2017 season marks his fourth with the Jacks in the Midwestern Junior C Hockey League, having played a total of 115 games and earning himself 105 points.
Coaching staff chose three players to back Jefferies as assistant captains: Brenden Goran, Alex Uttley and Sean McEwan. All are returning players to the Applejacks.
The team made it to the second round of the playoffs last year, losing out to the Ayr Centennials, but Uttley, who has earned 53 points in his 60 games with the Jacks, says this year will look a little bit different on the ice.
“The big thing is that we lacked experience,” he said before a practice in St. Clements last week. “Over half of our team was new. Even the guys that played the year before that, we only played four playoff games, so to get the second round last year it was pretty big. We lacked experience, but we have that this year, so it will be good.”
As one of the newly named leaders for the Jacks, Jefferies says he believes the four guys represent different leadership styles, something that will benefit the rest of the team when the regular season begins on Sept. 16.
“We have a good core here. Sean and I are kind of the quieter guys. We lead by example,” he said. “Then we have Brenden and Alex, they are more vocal and they step up with the enthusiasm when it is needed on the bench. I think as a group we cover all the bases.”
When asked why he thought he was chosen to wear the ‘C’ on his jersey, Jefferies says he was just one of the qualified players for the job.
“I think any one of us could have been captain, but I think me and Sean, especially, this is our fourth year. We have gone through a lot,” he said. “The first year we were here, we had a competitive team, then the next year, we had a bit of a rougher year, and we have been through the whole cycle. We have seen it all.”
As assistant captain, Goran, who just joined the team last season with 21 points in 35 games, says he sees a bright future with this year’s roster. He plans to help take the team further.
“I think it was a huge turnaround last year and it is crazy how much we can turn around in one year. I think that we have a lot of potential this year to carry on,” he said. “We were happy with where we finished last year, but I think we can go a bit further this year.”
McEwan is a Jacks veteran, having joined the team in the 2013-2014 season. He is taking his assistant captain duties to heart, and is planning on supporting the defensive aspect of the game.
“I just try to lead by example, play my game and work hard. I will definitely be taking up more of the defensive side,” he said. “Trying to keep a high guy at all times, and move back quickly. That is what lacked deeper in the playoffs last year. Teams got us on the rush and that is what we need to get better.”
Head coach Brad Gerber says he couldn’t have picked a better group of guys to lead the team this year.
“All four of them are returning players and they have been in the league before. What I like about these guys is that they are not all the ‘rah rah’ guys in the room,” he said. “They lead by example and that is what we like as a coaching staff. They make our decisions pretty easy when it comes to that. All of them are responsible hockey players and they are well liked.”
After finishing in the second round last season, Gerber says it is time to build on what they already have accomplished, and the group of captains will help them get there.
“The expectations are higher, obviously, and when we have four leaders like these guys, we expect even more,” he said. “Without putting too much pressure on these guys, as a team and a coaching staff, we are hoping for a really strong season.”
The team plays their first game of the regular season on Friday night in Tavistock. Their home opener isn’t until next month, Oct. 8, against Norwich at the Wellesley arena.