The Wellesley Applejacks wrapped up their regular season on a high note, extinguishing the New Hamburg Firebirds 4-3 last Friday and taming the Burford Bulldogs 8-1 the following day.
The winning weekend came after a midweek 6-2 victory over the Norwich Merchants in a makeup game following the previous weekend’s weather-related postponement.
The Jacks finished the season with a record of 27-8-2-3, their 59 points good enough for third place in the Provincial Junior Hockey League’s South Doherty Division. The Jacks were just one back of the second-place Firebirds (29-9-0-2), while the Tavistock Braves took the regular-season crown with 67 points (32-5-1-2).
Friday’s game at the neighbouring Wilmot arena started strongly, with the Jacks’ Jonathon Tsiampas drawing first blood at 17:44, taking advantage of a power play. James Ranson and Daniel Tsiampas picked up assists. That would be it for goals in the first frame, giving Wellesley a 1-0 advantage heading into intermission.
The second stanza was much dicier, with New Hamburg claiming the lead after potting three consecutive goals. The Firebirds’ Tyler Randerson began this streak at 7:57, then followed up shortly after at 8:32. Their third goal was scored at 13:25 on a power play.
The Jacks weren’t going down without a fight, finally finding their footing at 14:56. Jordan Hoekstra (James Ranson) cashed in on a power play opportunity, of which there were a few as the period was filled with roughhousing and the teams racked up nine penalties. There was just the one goal, however, so the Jacks still trailed 3-2 after 40 minutes.
That being the case, the Jacks didn’t let the pressure get to them: James Ranson scored almost instantly after play resumed, just 38 seconds in, with Colton Culbert and Zachary Lyons assisting. Reade MacInnes (Daniel Tsiampas, Lyons) got the go-ahead market at 1:43. They managed to hang on to the lead until the final buzzer went off, resulting in a 4-3 win.
Wellesley also narrowly outshot New Hamburg 32-31 in this matchup.
The victory gave the Jacks momentum heading into their last game of the regular season, with the Burford Bulldogs making the trek to Wellesley. The Jacks dominated the game, with Alex Uttley (Lyons, Hoekstra) getting things rolling at 12:26. Hoekstra followed up quickly at 13:38, with Uttley and Keegan Saunders picking up assists.
The Jacks unleashed on the Bulldogs in the second period, racking up five goals. Jonathon Tsiampas (Daniel Tsiampas, Kyle Soper) kicked off the scoring frenzy just 57 seconds in. Their next goal was courtesy of Danny Ranson (Hoekstra, James Ranson) followed by Daniel Tsiampas (Uttley, Jonathon Tsiampas) at 5:10. Hoekstra managed to score another goal shorthanded at 13:06, before Uttley wrapped things up at 15:26. Daniel Tsiampas grabbed the assist. This gave the Jacks a significant 7-0 lead going back into the room for the second intermission.
The third period was notable more for the fisticuffs rather than the scoring, as a huge fight broke out amongst several players at around 12:17. Penalties were doled out on both sides, ranging from inciting an opponent to major fighting, with ejections in the mix. Hockey equipment was sprawled all over the ice in the aftermath, and the game was momentarily paused while the ref had a discussion with the team captains.
When play resumed, Burford finally found the net, scoring shorthanded at 13:31. James Ranson responded shortly after on a power play, with Saunders and Daniel Tsiampas picking up assists. When the buzzer went, the scoreboard read 8-1 for the home team.
Having potted a pair and assisted on two others, Alex Uttley set a new record for the most points in winning the division scoring race with 98 (45 goals, 53 assists).
The Jacks open the playoffs Saturday night at home against the sixth-place Ayr Centennials (19-19-2-0). Game time is 7:30 p.m.