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One goal makes all the difference as the Jacks split a pair

With one-goal games, you win some, you lose some. That wasn’t lost on the Wellesley Applejacks, who won on the road Friday night in a 6-5 overtime struggle over Norwich before dropping a 1-0 decision to visiting New Hamburg the following evening.

Throw in Saturday morning’s skate with local minor hockey players, the annual Jacks Day, and it was a busy weekend for the Junior C squad.

On the road January 19, the Jacks exchanged goals and leads with the Norwich Merchants, ultimately tying up the game in time for rookie Zach Ribeiro to play overtime hero with a shorthanded marker.

“It’s always exciting to get that, that’s for sure, and to see a guy like Zach Ribeiro score the goal. We were short-handed, it was four on three. He did a great job killing the penalty, then he blocked the shot and went down on a breakaway and scored,” said head coach Brad Gerber. “Zach has been that player for us all season, and he is only getting better for us, so it was great to see him get the goal.”

It was Norwich that opened up scoring late in the first period. Wellesley was not far behind, however, with Tomas Azzano from Nathan Schlupp tying it up at a minute into the second.

The teams spent the next period battling it out for the lead, with Norwich scoring at 4:14, Wellesley’s Shaun Pickering, from Trent Lamarche and Alex Uttley, tying it back up just 22 seconds later. And Uttley scored, unassisted before the five-minute mark.

Tomas Azzano skates the puck over the blue line in Wellesley’s 1-0 loss to New Hamburg Saturday evening. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]
Norwich didn’t enjoy getting toyed with in their home barn and scored another two before the buzzer to take a 4-3 lead into the second intermission.

Ribeiro got his first of the game 6:49 into the third, from Ryan Sparkes, to tie it back up.

Riberio continues to earn those extra minutes on the ice.

“As a rookie, he is getting his points, but he just plays so well without the puck as well. He has become so reliable, and he is getting more ice time because of that. I can’t say anything bad about the kid, just low maintenance and just plays the game,” said Gerber of the rookie. “We are very happy to have him on our team, for sure. He is smart, he sees the ice so well, and he battles – you can’t ask much more from a guy like him.”

Norwich took back the lead at 17:56  of the third.

With less than a minute left in play, Wellesley pulled their goalie and used their extra attacker for Ryan Sparkes to score with only 13 seconds left in the frame, sending the teams into overtime.

With his team down a man, Ribeiro stepped up to block a shot, take the puck down the ice and bury it for the Jacks’ first overtime win of the season.

Goalie Ryan Hergott played a tough game, stopping 37 of Norwich’s 42 shots, enough for the victory.

“Friday night was good. Norwich is a very tough team to play against, especially down there. They are big, they are strong, they play a physical game. To get that overtime win was very good, especially the way we got it – coming back, scoring the last minute there to tie it up, and then winning it in overtime was great,” said Gerber.

The following morning, Wellesley held its annual Jacks Day with local minor hockey players. The kids were given a chance to come out and share some ice time with the junior team playing games and spending time with young fans.

“It was a lot of fun for the kids, but it was fun for our guys as well,” he said. “It’s good for our players and for our team to be in the community like that. The kids find their favourite players and have their heroes, and that makes them want to come to the games to watch their heroes play, so it’s good for both sides.”

After a fun community day, the Jacks headed back to Wellesley Saturday night to face the New Hamburg Firebirds.

The only goal of the game came from New Hamburg’s Tyler Randerson on a two-on-one attack during the power play, with an assist going to former Applejack Corey Restoule at 15:49.

Goalie Hergott stopped 41 of 42 shots, however, but didn’t get any run support, the Jacks coming up empty on 31 shots.

With three games left in the regular season, Gerber says he likes what he sees from his competitive team, and is looking forward to playoffs.

“It is coming right down to the end here, and we want to just keep playing good, hard hockey and only get better as we go on into the playoffs.”

The Jacks are on the road in Ayr Thursday evening to face the Centennials before returning home to host  the Tavistock Braves Saturday night. Game time in both cases is 7:30 p.m.

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