It wasn’t the golden finish to the regular season they were hoping for, but the Wellesley Applejacks are off to the playoffs nonetheless.
They finished in third place behind Ayr and Paris, with a 24-14-2 record, which is slightly better than last season when they finished the regular season in fourth.
“At the beginning of the season we always talked about finishing in the top three, to be realistic finishing first wasn’t going to happen, but we always talked about finishing second or third. So we are pleased where we are,” said head coach Brad Gerber.
“We’ve had some highs and we’ve also had some lows, but I think for the most part we’ve played quite consistently and I think we are getting better as a team as the season’s gone on.”
The Jacks spent Friday night in Woodstock, where they came away with only one point, instead of two, as a result of a 3-3 tie with the Navy Vets.
Wellesley was first to take the lead with a marker from Kyle Soper, assisted by Cal Jefferies and Sean McEwan.
Woodstock jumped ahead in the second on goals from Jacob Brown (Chris Nauts, Kurtis Christo) and Chris Jensen (Dan Haig, Austin Whetham). With only 11 seconds remaining in the period, Wellesley’s Nick Mercier found the back of Woodstock’s net to tie the game. Alex Uttley and Shaun Pickering picked up assists.
The Navy Vets took back their lead in the third with Brown’s second goal of the night, assisted by Dylan Wettlaufer and Justin Elms. But the Jacks evened the playing field as Pickering sunk his own, helped by Mercier and Jordan Hoekstra.
Overtime couldn’t settle it so both teams received one point for the tie. Wellesley goalie Ryan Hergott made 45 saves.
“In Woodstock Friday night I thought we actually played quite well. I thought we skated really well for a big ice and they’re always a very tough team to play, especially in their arena. Coming away with a point, I thought we did okay and I thought we could have even pulled it out,” said Gerber.
Back in Wellesley the next night for their final regular season game, they weren’t able to pull out a win over the Tavistock Braves.
Josh Borys opened the scoring for Tavistock in the first period, assisted by Sullivan Murphy.
Pickering, helped by Uttley and Hoekstra, got his team back in the game with a late goal.
The Jacks couldn’t get the right bounce in the second, and the Braves were able to push ahead 2-1 on a goal from Kellen Gedies (Braedon Hancock). Tavistock carried that momentum into the third, where Mathew Walsh (Kieran Van Boekel) and Gedies (Hancock) increased their lead to 4-1.
Pickering added his second of the night, assisted again by Uttley and Hoekstra, but it was too little, too late.
“We weren’t as sharp as we probably should have been for a few reasons. One being we were in third and stuck there, so it’s kind of hard to motivate the guys all the time, even though you expect the most out of them every game and sometimes it’s hard to get the guys up,” said Gerber.
Gerber says they’ve been telling the guys all season if you don’t show up to play you’re not going to win, and that was one of the cases. While at times they had the right energy, they weren’t playing smart with and without the puck for much of the game.
Ryan Porter made 30 saves for the Jacks. Gerber says his and Hergott’s goaltending have been one of the team’s strong points this season.
“Hergott played really well in Woodstock and Porter had a good game, the score could have been even worse if Porter hadn’t made some big saves for us. Our goalies have been solid. We expect that from our goalies because they’re both veteran guys and going forward to the playoffs here we’re going to need those guys to be at their best and that’s what we expect, so hopefully we get that,” said Gerber.
The first round of playoffs kicks off this Friday at home in a best of seven between Wellesley and Woodstock. Gerber says they’ll have to match the Navy Vets’ energy and work ethic, but the Jacks are up to the task.
The Jacks host the Navy Vets at 7:30 p.m. before heading down to Woodstock on Saturday for a 7:45 p.m. game. They’ll repeat those game times and locations on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11. The final three games, if necessary, are Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. in Wellesley, Feb. 17 at 7:45 p.m. in Woodstock and Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Wellesley.