It wasn’t pretty and they spent way too much in the penalty box but the Wellesley Applejacks finally defeated the Ayr Centennials on Saturday night for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said head coach Brad Gerber.
The Centennials swept the Jacks the past two seasons in the regular season and playoffs. Finally this season, the Jacks have proved they can compete with them.
The win is all the more impressive given they were down 3-0 after the first period.
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“At the end of the day I think it goes a long way for the guys. It’s a big morale booster and the way we won and stuck together and got it done is even better yet,” Gerber said.
Centennials Jake Whibbs, Mitch Klie and Riley Clipper scored on Wellesley goalie Ryan Porter in the first. The game got messy at the end of the first period and two penalties were handed out to each team for unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing after the whistle and playing without a helmet.
“I thought we weren’t playing the way we wanted to start and actually the result was exactly what it should have been after the first,” Gerber said.
The Jacks dug in for the second period, scoring three goals in a row to tie the game 3-3. The first Wellesley goal was scored by Jordon Hoekstra and the next two came from Spencer Brick.
“Having a little talk in the dressing room between periods I give the boys a lot of credit, they responded very well. We were a lot harder on the pucks and we started doing little things right. It turned out for us,” Gerber said.
Both teams found themselves in penalty trouble early in the second, as Wellesley’s Nick Palmer and Ayr’s Clipper got into it, both receiving roughing and inciting an opponent penalties. And 10 minutes later after Brick scored his second goal of the night, he and Ayr’s Nolan Ferris scuffled, earning more roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct and inciting an opponent penalties.
Connor Maclean from Ayr and Nick Mercier from Wellesley put one more a piece on the board to head into the third frame with the game knotted 4-4.
“Saturday night, it had almost like a playoff atmosphere. There was a lot of high emotions and a lot of intensity and everything that goes with it. And I think that made us a better team, playing that way. That’s how we have to play, not so many penalties, but I think we have to play with a lot of emotion and a lot of intensity and we’re a much better team. I thought it showed by the end of the night,” Gerber said.
Wellesley gained the lead in the third with another goal from Hoekstra until Ayr added their final goal from Eric Uba at the five minute mark to tie it 5-5. Wellesley’s Seamus Mooney put Wellesley ahead again in the third as both teams appeared to back off the fighting.
Ayr pulled their goalie in a last ditch attempt to score to take the game into overtime, but instead Wellesley’s Brenden Goran scored on an empty net to make the score 7-5 with less than two minutes left to play.
The last minute of play dragged on as the game was stopped with 40 seconds to play when six players started to fight. They managed to play for another 19 seconds before five more players started fighting. Wellesley accumulated 82 penalty minutes on 25 infractions. Ayr had 67 minutes on 21 infractions.
Greg Huber and Brenden Goran were both suspended for one game and Tyson Bender received a four-game suspension.
“At the end of the day we’ve got quite the rivalry against Ayr. Obviously, they don’t like us and we don’t like them, and that’s what’s going to happen. It’s early in the season but you want to send some messages and let them know we’re not going to go anywhere. We’re here for the season,” Gerber said.
He notes Porter made some big saves that kept them in the game against Ayr. Their second goalie Ryan Hergott is out with a concussion, but should be ready to play again soon.
Perhaps experiencing something of an emotional letdown, the Jacks faced the Paris Mounties the following night, falling 4-2.
Paris pulled ahead in the first with goals from Blake Culley and Mikael Ruffini. With three minutes to go, Shaun Pickering put the Jacks on the board. Pickering put another puck in the net in the second to tie the game 2-2. But a goal from Paris’ Mathew Walsh with five seconds left in the period and a goal from Brett Wilson in the third, sealed the game for the Merchants.
“After such an emotional game the night before I thought we put everything on the line Saturday night and Sunday was just one of those games. Paris is a good team too,” Gerber said.
Wellesley didn’t run into nearly as many penalty troubles this time around, spending just 34 minutes in the box.
The Jacks are in third place, just two points behind Ayr and four points behind Paris.
This week in practice they’ll be focusing on playing without the puck and tightening up in their own end to keep the number of shots on their goalie down.
And they better rest up because they’ve got games on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. They’re off to Tavistock to face the Braves on Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. They’ll be home Oct. 29 against the New Hamburg Firebirds at 7:30 p.m. and then Oct. 30 against the Norwich Merchants for a 2 p.m. game in Wellesley.