A pair of wins last weekend helped the Wellesley Applejacks solidify their early-season spot atop the South Doherty Division standings in the Provincial Junior Hockey League. They took down the Norwich Merchants 8-6 on Saturday before topping the Delhi Travellers 7-2 the following night.
“We had a great weekend, and now we’re first place overall,” said club president Terry Brick.
In Saturday’s game, the Jacks took an early lead and would never trail for the rest of the night despite plenty of back-and-forth scoring. Owen Lane got the visitors on the board at 4:15, with Zach Ribeiro and Zachary Lyons picked up assists. Warren Gorman (Danny Ranson, Shaun Pickering) followed up quickly, taking advantage of a power play at 6:05. The Merchants responded on a power play of their own at 7:55 before Lane (Ribeiro, Lyons) retaliated at 18:19.
The Jacks went into the first intermission up 3-1.
Norwich upped their game in the second stanza, scoring early on at 1:13. Ribeiro (Lyons) responded just eleven seconds later at 1:24. The rapid scoring frenzy carried on with the Merchants potting another at 2:14; then Carson Wickie (Curtis Jackson) at 2:42. Norwich managed to keep up the heat with two more at 3:23 and 9:11, which briefly tied the game at 5-5. It was all Wellesley after that.
Noah Benjamin (Nathan Thibodeau, Brendan Baker) retaliated at 9:33; then Lane completed a hat trick with another Wellesley goal at 13:37 – assists went to Lyons and Ribeiro. Thibodeau (Benjamin, Baker) wrapped up the final goal of this action-packed frame at 18:10. It was 8-5 after 40 minutes.
The third period was a completely different story, with just one goal tallied: Norwich took advantage of a power play, scoring with less than six minutes to go. Play was chippier, however, with six of the game’s 10 penalties doled out as tempers flared later in the game.
When the final buzzer went off, the Merchants had actually outshot the Jacks 36-32, but the Jacks were ahead where it most counted, taking an 8-6 win.
“It was little unexpected,” said Brick, of the close game. “Norwich has been a good team for several years now … right in the middle of the standings usually.”
The Jacks kept up the momentum and then some on Sunday when they hit the road to Delhi to take on the Travellers.
After an opening period in which the two teams traded late goals – Wellesley’s Gianfranco Commisso scored unassisted at 17:04, followed by a Delhi reply at 19:41 – the Jacks picked up the pace to cruise to victory.
D. Ranson (Wickie, Connor Bradley) got things going in the second, potting one at 3:01, while Pickering (Austin Cousineau, Lyons) followed up at 3:43. Delhi retaliated at 4:42, taking advantage of a power play before Pickering responded on a power play of his own at 11:37. Lyons and Koby Seiling picked up assists. The score stood at 4-2 for the visitors with a period to go.
It was all Wellesley in the third frame. Keegan Saunders kicked things off unassisted at 6:34, then James Ranson (Saunders, Thibodeau) potted one at 14:09. Benjamin (Cousineau, Commisso) scored the final goal at 18:34, resulting in a 7-2 win for Wellesley.
The Jacks look to continue the winning streak tonight (Thursday) when they take on the Ayr Centennials tonight. Despite Ayr being one of the third-place teams, alongside Norwich and Tavistock, Brick said he’s not too worried about his team’s prospects.
“They really dropped off last year … I assume it’ll be the same this year,” said Brick of the Centennials. “They lost their star team pretty much there through age limits.”
The following match will see the Jacks face off against the Woodstock Navy Vets on Friday night. Their home opener is set for October 5 at the St. Clements arena.