It was a weekend of stunning highs and disappointing lows for the Applejacks as they played back-to-back games on home ice this weekend. Up against the fourth-place Paris Mounties, the Jacks fell in a disappointing 5-1 defeat, but came roaring back the next night to take down the second-place Ayr Centennials by a score of 4-2.
“It was definitely exciting,” said forward Shaun Pickering immediately after Saturday’s win.
“People think, ‘oh, well, it’s Ayr.’ Yeah, but we’re Wellesley too: there’s no taking that away from us. Teams are excited when they beat us. There’s no more, ‘oh, we can beat them.’ It’s, ‘we should beat them,’ and they are lucky to beat us now.”
It was a lame start to the weekend, however, as the Applejacks first faced up against the visiting Mounties Friday. Despite matching Paris almost shot for shot, and having more than double the power plays to work with, Wellesley was never really in this game.
The Mounties managed the only goal of the opening frame. Any pretense of a close game came to a halt in the second when the visitors scored two more to take a 3-0 lead.
The hurt kept on coming in the third, as two more goals, one of them shorthanded, made it 5-0 just past the eight-minute mark.
Alex Uttley finally got the Jacks on the board at 8:18, with Nick Mercier and Liam Hartman picking up assists, but by then the game was clearly over. The clock ran down to zero with 5-1 frozen disappointingly on the board.
In all, the Jacks had 11 power plays at their disposal yet capitalized on none; Paris in turn, had five, but also failed to take advantage.
The game wasn’t as close as the two teams are in the standings, with Paris just ahead of the fifth-place Jacks in the South Doherty Division.
Still, despite the poor showing Friday, the Jacks came raging back Saturday night to knock the Centennials off their much higher perch. Perhaps a good night’s sleep was all that was needed to improve the weekend.
Up against the second-place team, the Jacks knew from recent experience that they could skate with their rivals. The last meeting saw Wellesley go up 4-0 before things went a little sideways and they lost 5-4 in overtime.
So all the right ingredients were there; what was needed was some consistent play – and the Jacks found that in spades.
“Tonight’s the first night we had a 60-minute effort and the [games are] finally going our way,” said Pickering immediately after the match Saturday.
Wellesley took an early lead in the game when Pickering (Uttley) potted the first and only goal of the frame. Netminder Ryan Hergott weathered the Ayr attack turning aside all 13 shots in the period.
The home side went up 2-0 less than four minutes into the second frame courtesy of a goal by Uttley, with Pickering and Spencer Brick assisting.
Ayr wasn’t going to roll over, however, storming back with a pair of their own before the period ended to tie things up. Ayr’s Zachary Masterson potted their first unassisted at 11:37. Then, just over two minutes later, the Centennials pressed forward for another goal, this time on the power play.
The two teams went to the room deadlocked at 2-2.
Things got a little heated in the third, and the game would be decided by special teams – the Jacks made good on two power play attempts, while denying the Centennial when they were up a skater.
Pickering broke the tie 12:27, with assists going to Uttley and Trent Dundas. with less than two minutes to go, Kyle Soper (Pickering) netted the team’s fourth, restoring the Jacks’ two-goal lead. And that was how the game ended, with a 4-2 victory.
If the game proved anything, it’s that the Jacks are a formidable opponent when they’re in their element.
“We have the team to do it. Like you look at our team on paper, like we have the deepest, most skilled team in the league,” said Pickering.
The Applejacks are going to need that momentum going into this weekend, as the team will be visiting the Norwich Merchants Friday. Even though they’re behind in sixth place, the Merchants (9-11-1-0) have beat the Jacks on both previous occasions, home and away. Then on Saturday, they will be in Paris to have another go at the Mounties. Facing two teams they’ve had a tough time with, the Jacks have an opportunity for some payback.