In what ought to have been a four-point week weekend, the Jacks wound up splitting the difference with a win and a loss.
The weekend got off to a rocky start, Friday, as Jacks welcomed the Ayr Centennials – a team they’d previously had little trouble beating – and fell by a score of 5-4.
Losing their primary netminder early in the second to a fistfight, the Jacks became easy pickings for the Ayr contingent, which claimed its first victory against Wellesley this season. By Sunday, the Jacks were back in fighting form, though, travelling to Burford to deliver an 8-1 beat down against the home team.
With the Junior C regular season entering its final two weeks, every point counts as the third-place Jacks trail the rival the New Hamburg Firebirds by three points in the standings.
By all accounts, last Friday’s matchup against the visiting Centennials ought to have netted the Jacks an easy two points. Wellesley had little difficulty with the seventh-place Ayr team in the past, beating them at every opportunity and always by a spread of at least two points.
This time around, however, the Jacks’ floundered against the Centennial attack. Penalty trouble might been the culprit as, early in the second, the Jacks found themselves down a goalie to a bit of fisticuffs.
Wellesley took an early lead in this game but never managed to hold it for long. Zach Ribeiro (Zachary Lyons, Reade MacInnis) slotted the team’s first goal just a minute-and-a-half out from the drop, but the visitors were hot on their heels.
The Centennials responded at the 12-minute mark, making it an even 1-1. Lyons (Ribeiro, Tyler Schwindt) came back a minute later to make it 2-1 Wellesley, but 15 seconds was all it took for Ayr to tie things up for a second time before the first intermission.
But while the opening 20 minutes proved a fairly tame affair, with a steady back-and-forth momentum and no penalties to speak of, the middle frame is where things got interesting – and, for the Jacks, disastrous.
The turning point came just three minutes in when a slug-fest broke out between Wellesley goaltender Kailem Chappelle and Ayr’s Zach Edwards. The two players didn’t hold any punches, but Chappelle was slapped with some severe infractions, and ultimately had to leave the ice.
Substituted in his place was Bryce Dettweiler, who was put on the spot coming into a game already 20 minutes old and couldn’t match Chappelle’s performance that night. The shots on goal are telling: in the second, Ayr needed just six shots on goal to put up two more goals.
The first of those came on the power play, putting Ayr into the lead 3-2. Another goal came minutes later to make it 4-2. While Wellesley’s defence took a hit, its offense couldn’t dish any of the damage back, resulting in a 4-2 score by the end of the frame.
The third saw the Jacks rally on both sides of the red line. Shaun Pickering got an unassisted goal five minutes in to make it a one-point game. Ten minutes later, Ayr widened the gap with a fifth goal. The game looked out of reach at that point, though Ribeiro (Daniel Tsiampas) made it 5-4 with just 24 seconds to go. Despite the rally, the Jacks simply ran out of time.
Coming off Friday’s unexpected defeat, the Jacks were in Burford to battle the Bulldogs Sunday, perhaps taking out a bit of their frustration en route to an 8-1 victory.
This game was firmly in the Jacks’ pocket, though it didn’t start that way. Burford drew first blood in this competition, with Bulldogs’ Micha Telfer potting an unassisted goal in the first three minutes.
The Bulldogs held the visitors at bay for most of the rest of the period, until MacInnis (Ribeiro, Jonathan Tsiampas) finally got the Jacks on the board at 18:22. A second goal quickly followed just three seconds from the intermission, a power play marker from Alex Uttley (Matt Caskanette, D. Tsiampas).
The teams were 2-1 Wellesley when the second rolled around, and from here on out it was all Applejacks. Warren Gorman (Uttley, Pickering) scored a third point at 11:29, D. Tsiampas (Will Martin, Kyle Soper) followed with a fourth at 16:37, and Uttley again (MacInnis, Caskanette) 20 seconds after that to make 5-1 by the second intermission.
The final frame was equally auspicious, with Wellesley claiming another three points before the game was out. D. Tsiampas found his mark single-handed at 4:13; Koby Seiling (Pickering, Ribeiro) just seconds later at 4:46; and finally Pickering (Uttley, picking up his second assist on the back of two goals), at 18:37 to make it an 8-1 finish.
With four games left in the season, the Jacks will be jockeying for a second-place finish to start the playoffs on a sure footing. Last season saw the fifth-place Jacks eliminated in the first round just four games into the playoffs.
Tomorrow (Friday), the Jacks will be in Woodstock for a 7:45 p.m. game against the home team. Saturday sees them play at Wellesley arena to face the Norwich Merchants at 7:30 p.m.
On January 25, the Jacks will be in Wilmot to challenge the Firebirds at 7:30 p.m. – a game that could very well determine the teams’ final placement in the standings. January 26, the Jacks will have one final match against the Bulldogs at the Wellesley arena, a 7:30 p.m. start.