The Applejacks had much to celebrate at its end-of-year awards banquet last week, as the Wellesley Junior C team looked to close the chapter on a particularly bright season, full of many firsts.
The 2018-19 Provincial Junior Hockey League season saw the Jacks claim their first division championship in a five-game series against the Tavistock Braves, thus punching their first-ever ticket to the Schmaltz Cup dance.
The Jacks surpassed all their rivals in the local division playoffs, including the Tavistock, New Hamburg and Paris, and made it to the fourth round of the playoffs before falling to the Grimsby Peach Kings. For the team, it was a substantial milestone.
“That was amazing. In the 14 years I’ve been with the team, the furthest I’ve ever been personally with the Jacks has been second round. That’s been it. I’ve never been further,” said long-time organization member and equipment manager Rick Grebinski.
“Beginning of the year we started out, we were kind of fighting for fourth place, third place. And then as time went on the team gelled,” he said. “The team as a whole, they really came on. We were ready to roll by the time the playoffs came around.”
The team’s record season was buoyed along by the strength of an exceptionally strong lineup, with star shooter Alex Uttley making a sweep at the awards ceremony.
“I don’t know what else you can say about a kid who’s your most valuable player,” said Grebinski. “He did everything that was asked of him. On the ice, power play, killing penalties, logging lots of ice time out there.”
A veteran of five years with the Jacks, Uttley broke the division record for points in his final game in the regular season with season total of 45 goals and 53 assists, for a grand total of 98 points.
Uttley was not only recognized by the team for his stellar season, but by the league as well. He was selected for both the Doherty Division Top Scorer Award and labelled the division’s most valuable player. Perhaps not surprisingly, Uttley was chosen for the division all-star award, alongside Wellesley defenseman James Ranson.
“When we presented him with his graduating gift I said, ‘Geez I remember you walking into the room. It was just like yesterday,” said Grebinski with a laugh, who recalls a much greener and younger Uttley first trying out for the team. “And then he leaves and he’s this grown man. I’m getting old I’ll tell you, raising all these kids, but I love it.”
Another first for the team was the presentation of the first Verna Metcalfe Benevolence Award. Created in honour of the tireless club booster, who passed away last year, the award went out to the player best exemplifying Metcalfe’s dedication to the team.
Chosen for the very first such award was the team’s assistant captain, Shaun Pickering.
“Shaun, he hit every checkmark in the criteria there. He made it out to every event that the Jacks are present at. Like, we go out into the community,” said Grebinski. “We go to library, to school, and we go to the parade. The ABC Festival. So we’re out and about a lot in the community. You try and get the players out as much as you can, but Shaun made it out to everything we did this year, so he was very big.
“He was like the face of the Jacks this year. So everywhere the Jacks were, Shaun was definitely there. And he just loves it, loves the kids,” added Grebinski. “So he was definitely a great ambassador to the Jacks this year. He just exemplified everything tin our program that we try and get out there to the kids. So he was very deserving of that award.”
Alongside Uttley and Ranson, forward Zach Ribeiro earned the Doherty Division Sportsmanship Award.
Claiming the Applejacks Coaches Award were Kailem Chappelle and Warren Gorman, while Gorman was also selected for the unsung player award. Most improved went to Koby Selling, the most valuable local player was Will Martin. Most valuable defenseman went to Reade MacInnes, and rookie of the year was Tyler Schwindt.