The Wellesley Applejacks are one win away from sweeping their series against the Ayr Centennials and advancing to the second round of the Provincial Junior Hockey League playoffs.
The past week saw the team post two more wins to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
If the last week was anything to go by, the team is well advised to keep a broom handy.
Facing the Centennials for game two February 7 in North Dumfries, the Jacks surged to a late-game 7-2 victory after floundering in the first two frames of the match. On Saturday, the Jacks played Ayr to a much closer 3-2 victory on home ice.
Three games into the best-of-seven series, the Jacks will be looking to land a knockout blow out as they face Ayr tonight in a 7:30 p.m. match at the North Dumfries arena.
Having won the opening game of the series at home, the Jacks took to the road last Thursday hoping to take firmer control. The game certainly didn’t seem to be going that direction, however, as the Centennials stayed precariously ahead of the Jacks until the final 15 minutes of play.
Ayr even got things rolling, potting their first goal of the match on a power play. It would be the lone point of the period, the hosts taking a 1-0 lead into the intermission.
Wellesley would retaliate just two minutes into the second with a power play marker of their own coming off the stick of Jordan Hoekstra (Matt Caskanette, Zachary Lyons). That would prove to be the only scoring play of the frame, with the score 1-1 after 40 minutes.
Things would change in the game’s last stanza.
The final 20 minutes saw a flurry of activity, with Ayr knocking in what would be the first in a volley of goals just a minute in. Their 2-1 lead was to be short-lived, however.
Losing a player to the box, Wellesley’s Warren Gorman (Kyle Soper, Jordan Hoekstra) nonetheless found the back of the net short-handed to make it 2-2 with 15 minutes to go.
Zachary Lyons next made contact three minutes after that with an unassisted marker. Alex Uttley (Gorman, Shaun Pickering) potted the team’s fourth at 11:16, and Gorman followed up on the power play at 13:44, with Uttley and Pickering this time lending assists.
With the Jacks up 5-2, Hoekstra (Kyle Soper, Reade MacInnis) potted his second of the match at 14:35 to make it 6-2, and finally Brendan Baker (Pickering) capped off the action with a seventh and final goal with just under three minutes to go.
It was a frenzied finished to what had started off as a mild, evenly matched game. In power plays, both teams picked up two goals with the man advantage, with Wellesley receiving eight opportunities and Ayr just five.
Whereas the Thursday match was a knockout victory, the third game of the series proved to be a much tighter affair as the Jacks welcomed the Centennials to the Wellesley arena on Saturday, and edged them out in a 3-2 decision.
Wellesley found the back of the net first this time around, but it was not until the second frame that the goals started adding up. A minute into the second, the Uttley, Gorman and Pickering trio put the Jacks on the board with the first point of the match.
Ayr’s Nolan Kelly would respond at the 13 minute point with an unassisted marker, knotting the board 1-1 again. But Wellesley quickly clawed back their lead just two minutes after that, with Zach Ribeiro (Colton Culbert) potting the tie-breaker.
The final stanza saw each team add another point to the total late into the frame, ending the game on a 3-2 difference. Uttley (Pickering, Daniel Tsiampas) made it a 3-1 game at 15 minutes, and Ayr’s Nolan Kelly (Rob Grant) scored his second goal of the night with just 1:35 left on the clock, making it a one-point game again with mere seconds left to go.
Ayr couldn’t capitalize on that last-minute momentum in time, however, and the game closed on the single point difference, giving Wellesley the narrow win.
Three games in pocket, the Jacks could make it a perfect four as they take on the Centennials tonight (Thursday) in North Dumfries at 7:30 p.m. A fifth game, if needed, is scheduled for Friday in Wellesley, followed by a Saturday game in North Dumfries and a final game seven on Sunday at the Wellesley arena. Game time in each instance is 7:30 p.m.