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On the road, Wellesley Applejacks split a pair

[Faisal Ali/ The Observer]

After a near flawless three weeks played on home ice, the Wellesley Applejacks were once more on the road for the week’s matchups. First facing the Centennials in Ayr on October 25, the Jacks pulled through with a comfortable 3-1 decision, but found the hosts less welcoming in New Hamburg last Saturday, suffering a narrow 5-4 loss to the Firebirds.

The split decision poured cold water on the team’s hot streak, which had kicked off on October 6 and had been going for five wins and a tie.

Still, the Jacks were on top form as they headed into Ayr last week, where they went on to best the home team after suffering some slight setbacks in the first frame.

Ayr took the lead in this game, drawing first blood halfway through the opening stanza. The goal came off the stick of the Centennials’ Dean Jackson at the nine-minute mark, tilting the game in Ayr’s favour for the remainder of the frame.

The Jacks had the opportunity to respond in the next 20 minutes, scoring twice in quick succession and swinging the game back to their side. Warren Gorman tied things up at 1-1 five minutes into the second, with Alex Uttley and James Ranson picking up assists. His goal was followed by another, this time from Shaun Pickering, with Uttley once again providing a helper.

The Jacks were now in the lead 2-1 with little over half the game to go. The Wellesley team was able to hang on to their point lead for the remainder of the second, and then found the back of the net for a third time in the third.

It was Uttley who got the final goal at 11:47 on the power play, cementing the team’s lead 3-1 for the remainder of the match. The assist this time belonged to Pickering.

In the battle of the special teams, the Jacks proved the superior team, with five man-advantages and two power play markers compared with Ayr’s 0-4.

On a high after Thursday game in Ayr, the Jacks were knocked low come Saturday at the New Hamburg arena. The Firebirds, Wellesley’s neighbouring rivals, just edged out the visitors with a pair of goals in the last frame, making it a 5-4 difference when the buzzer went.

Once again, it was the Jack’s opponents that got on the board first, just four minutes into the game. The Firebirds were up 1-0 for much of the period, but the visitors replied before the intermission courtesy of a goal off the stick of Zach Ribeiro (Danny Ranson, Koby Seiling).

The Jacks quickly pulled into the lead when play resumed after the intermission, Uttley (Reade MacInnis) making it 201 at 1:25.

New Hamburg responded with a marker of their own less than a minute later, knotting things up. It would be Jacks who went into the intermission with a lead this time, however, as Ribeiro scored another, assisted by Ranson, at 15:40 to make it 3-2.

The final frame is where things got heated, which can happen in a one-goal game.

New Hamburg tied the score at 3-3 at 5:32 of the third, but Wellesley quickly regained the lead on an unassisted goal from Uttley just a minute later. The score was now 4-3 in the Jacks’ favour again, with less than 14 minutes on the clock. But the Firebirds played the game down to the wire.

Penalty trouble proved Wellesley’s undoing, as the Firebirds drew even again at 7:49 via a power-play goal, capping the comeback on another power play at 16:50 to make it 5-4, which is how the game would finish.

After a mixed performance on the road, the Jacks will be returning to the Wellesley arena this weekend. First up will an evening game against the Burford Bulldogs on Friday, followed by a rematch against the New Hamburg Firebirds Saturday. The puck drops for both games at 7:30 p.m.

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