The Wellesley Applejacks are hoping to maintain their third-place position or move up to second with only eight games left in the regular season.
“We’re six points behind Paris and we’re one point up on New Hamburg for third. I think our goal all year was to finish second or third and right now we’re in third. We’re still gunning for second, but we definitely want to stay in third,” said head coach Brad Gerber heading into the final month before playoffs.
The Jacks came out hard in their last home game of 2016, trouncing the Paris Mounties 9-1. Wellesley put back five goals in the first 20 minutes, while Paris was unable to put anything past Jacks goalie Ryan Hergott.
Jacks goals came from Alex Uttley, Brett Hartin, Mario Alyas, Colt Jaime and Nick Mercier. Shaun Pickering (2), Jordan Hoekstra, Uttley, Brenden Goran, Cal Jefferies, Sean McEwan and Hartin picked up assists.
Just 19 seconds into the second period Pickering scored, assisted by Hoekstra and Uttley to increase Wellesley’s lead.
Paris managed their lone goal at the 11 minute mark on a successful shot from Alexander Polillo. Blake Culley and Mitchell Harvey assisted.
The Jacks finished off the second frame 7-1 with a power play goal from Nathan Schlupp (Uttley, Pickering).
They didn’t hold off in the final frame as Goran (Alyas, Brady Gerber) and Gerber (Goran, Alyas) put their own shots in Paris’ net to earn a resounding victory.
“It was actually a convincing victory over a team ahead of us, which we were very pleased with. It was just one of those nights where everything kind of bounced our way. I guess a lot of it’s got to do with we outworked them, we did a lot of things that we talk about and we actually finally got results. We were quite pleased,” Gerber said.
Unfortunately Wellesley couldn’t keep that momentum going in Norwich on Dec. 30. They kept the game tied in the first 40 minutes but in the final period Norwich skated away with the 5-2 win.
Norwich’s Ray Munro scored first assisted by Brandon Velda. Schlupp quickly tied the game up 40 seconds later, helped by McEwan and Jefferies. Wellesley took the lead in the second on a goal from Hoekstra (Pickering, Lucas Spence). But the Mounties tied the game on a power play goal from Derek Slaght (Munro, Velda) a minute later.
Wellesley couldn’t get the right bounces in the third period and Velda (Slaght), Brett Parsons (Blake Pow, Tyler Gubesch) and Troy Lamoure (Velda) got the puck past Ryan Porter to hand the Jacks the loss.
“Down in Norwich for two periods we were in that game. It was 2-2 after the second period, but at the same time I thought we were being outworked all night long. Norwich is a very tough team to play, especially in their own arena. They’re big, they’re physical, they work hard and we were fortunate to still be in that game after two periods I thought,” Gerber said.
He commends Ryan Porter for his work in the net that game.
The team is back to full strength now as players are finished with their suspensions and assistant captain Sean McEwan has healed from his injury.
“It’s really nice to have Sean back. He’s a big part of our team. He’s a big leader, so it’s good to have him for the last month of the season,” Gerber said.
The Jacks are home this weekend for an 8 p.m. game on Friday night against the Burford Bulldogs.
The Applejacks will be well represented this Saturday at the PJHL-Doherty Prospects and All-Star games in New Hamburg. Greg Huber, Shaun Pickering, Mario Alyas and Tyson Bender will play on one of the prospects teams for players born in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Ryan Porter, Nick Mercier and Alex Uttley will play on the all-star team which will play against an alumni team made up of former New Hamburg Firebirds players. The Applejacks coaching staff will be coaching the all-star team.
The all-star game begins at 4:30 p.m. and the prospects game gets going at 7 p.m.