Playing in a close game last week in Ayr, the Wellesley Applejacks narrowly edged out their opponents in a 4-3 decision to win their opening series of the Provincial Junior Hockey League playoffs.
The victory completed a four-game sweep and sent the Jacks on to the second round of the playoffs.
As with the previous match, it was no cakewalk, with one point being the final margin when the buzzer went. Ayr erased a two-goal deficit in the second period to make a game of it.
Though the Jacks were the ultimate victors, it was Ayr that got things rolling February 14. A little over four minutes into the opening frame, the Centennials put the visitors on notice as they fought to keep their season going.
But the Jacks were quick to respond, potting the next three goals before the Centennials had a chance to regroup. Shaun Pickering (Matt Caskanette, Keegan Saunders) found the back of the net at 11:03, knotting the teams 1-1.
Zach Ribeiro made it 2-1 less than two minutes later, courtesy of an assist from Danny Ranson and Zachary Lyons. And Pickering (James Ranson, Alex Uttley) soon returned for a power play marker just 37 seconds after that, putting the Jacks on the right side of a 3-1 difference.
But the two-point lead was cut in half before time ran out in the first, with Ayr making it 3-2 going into the first intermission.
The Jacks quickly found their lead evaporate as they stepped back onto the ice for period number two. The Ayr Centennials fired just four shots on net in the middle frame (27 overall), but that was all that was needed to tie things up. Just 14 seconds in, the Centennials potted their third goal of the match, making it a dead-even 3-3.
Wellesley was now on the attack, firing off 15 shots on net in the second (for a total of 47 over the game) in a bid to regain the lead.
The tie-breaker ultimately came from Wellesley’s end, with Ribeiro (Kyle Soper, Lyons) scoring the game-winning goal just three minutes into the second.
That was it for scoring in the match, with the Jacks only just holding onto their lead over the remaining 37 minutes of play as Ayr struggled to find their mark a fourth time. The loss came with a serving of elimination from the playoffs.
Tensions mounted, with both teams breaking out into multiple skirmishes and fisticuffs. Penalty minutes were 30 for Wellesley on 11 infractions, and 24 minutes for Ayr on 12. Power play opportunities were ripe for the taking, but the penalty killers were full value. Wellesley scored just once on eight chances, while Ayr failed to capitalize on any of their six power plays.
With the win, the Jacks move on to face the New Hamburg Firebirds, who beat out Woodstock in six games.
Elsewhere in the South Doherty Division, the Tavistock Braves swept through the Delhi Travellers to take on the Paris Mounties in round two.