Although it is still early in the process, the 2017-18 version of the Wellesley Apple Jacks is beginning to take shape.
Embarking on a three-week lead-up to the team’s season opener, head coach Brad Gerber is happy with the calibre of play he witnessed during the first scrimmages of training camp.
“We are pleased with what we saw. It was a good weekend to start,” he said.
“It was our first few scrimmages amongst our guys and now [this] weekend we’ve got four exhibition games, so it is really just the beginning. It is going to be a three-week process before we have our team picked before the beginning of the season, but it’s the start of it,” he said. “Everybody enjoys their summers off, and you don’t want to wish summer past, but at the same time hockey is exciting – we want to get that started, so now that it’s back we are back in the rink and ready to go.”
Gerber said their goal with these upcoming exhibition games is to give every player a chance to take a shot at making the team.
“Some of these kids are a lot younger but we want to have a good look at them, so we are going to make sure that they all get at least two or three games this weekend; mix the veterans in with them and get everybody to play a little bit here,” he explained.
The team will play an exhibition game Friday night against Mitchell at the St. Clements arena, followed by a rematch against the team the next evening in Stratford. Sunday will see the team head to Kincardine for two games in their mini-tournament.
“So it’s a busy weekend,” he said.
The training camp saw some 40 eager players on the ice fighting for a spot on the Jacks’ roster. After the first weekend, coaches still have 32 potential players on hand, with a goal of picking 23 by camp’s end.
Prior to training camp, the Jacks’ staff had a busy summer acquiring some of the league’s top talent.“We are really excited with some of our off season acquisitions like Reade Macinnis and we just signed a guy from Orillia, Kyle Fischer. Tomas Azzano, another guy who has played a lot of junior,” he said. “They all look good. We are really excited about those guys in our lineup.”
The new additions augment a solid group of returning players, so the future is looking bright for the team, Gerber notes.
“We’ve got a really good core returning and then, of course, we have a bunch of young guys out. They are still young, but they are going to be players – really good players – whether it is now or down the road, but we’re pleased,” he said.
With the season-opener in September just weeks away, Gerber is hoping to have his preliminary team set in short order.
“When you start the season you are always looking to get better. We are always trying to improve in every area of the game – whether it is defensively or offensively or in net or where ever – so you know you’re always looking,” he said. “Changes are made during the course of the season, but we start the season with what we have and we are always looking to get better.”
He adds, however, that the official roster deadline isn’t until later on in the season, so while the training camp is of the upmost importance they still have some flexibility going into opener. In fact, that extends right up to the playoffs.
“Once that deadline hits then that is your final roster,” he said.
The Apple Jacks will face off against Mitchell as the home team Friday in exhibition play, with their season opener coming September 15 in Woodstock.