The regular season now behind them, the Jacks broke fresh ground over the weekend with their very first matchup of the playoffs. Playing to a home crowd on Saturday, Wellesley skated to a 4-2 win over the Ayr Centennials.
The best-of-seven series resumes tonight (Thursday) in Ayr.
Wellesley may have taken the victory, but it was Ayr who found the back of the net first in game one. Coming in at 9:15, the Centennials held the 1-0 lead for much of the period, until, with 30 seconds left on the clock, Wellesley’s Shaun Pickering (Matt Caskanette, Alex Uttley) knotted things up.
Starting the second on even footing, Wellesley pushed into the lead courtesy of on unassisted marker off the stick of Uttley, who was recognized last week as the South Doherty Division’s MVP and top scorer of the of the season. Uttley set division’s record for the all-time highest number of points at 98 in the regular season, breaking the previous record of 95, as well as tying for most goals scored (45).
Uttley put the Jacks in the lead for the first time in this match, but Ayr remained on their heels. Nine minutes into the second, the visitors made it an even 2-2, setting the stage for a climatic showdown in the third.
The stalemate would persist well into the final frame, with neither side able to break the deadlock until past the halfway mark. The game-winning shot came from Warren Gorman (Daniel Tsiampas) at the 13-minute mark, putting the Jacks back on top, where they’d stay for the duration.
The Centennials pulled their goalie in the dying minutes of the game, hoping to force overtime, but were instead put one further into the hole when Ethan Hebel scored unassisted at exactly the 60-minute mark of the game.
It was a close match, with the two teams staying in lockstep until late into the final frame. In power plays, both teams were evenly matched, with Wellesley getting six man-advantages and Ayr eight, but with neither team able to get past the other’s penalty kill. For the Jacks, this match was all about volume, as the home team outshot their opponents 36-23 to secure the win.
Four wins are needed to move up to the next round of the playoffs, and the odds are definitely in Wellesley’s favour. The Jacks have beaten Ayr at every opportunity this season, though not always with ease, and the Centennials have often dominated the first 20 minutes in their matches.
A victory in hand, the Jacks be playing in North Dumfries tonight in a 7:30 p.m. matchup before returning to the Wellesley arena for their third outing, a 7:30 p.m. start Saturday night. Game four is scheduled for February 14 in Ayr.