A pair of wins last week extended the Wellesley Applejacks’ streak to five, solidifying the team’s lead atop the Provincial Junior Hockey League’s South Doherty Division standings.
Victories over the Ayr Centennials (7-3) on September 26 and the Woodstock Navy Vets (5-3) the following night left the Jacks with a record of 5-0-0-1 in early-season play.
“We’re first place overall and holding on,” said club president Terry Brick.
The Tavistock Braves (4-1) sit in second place, followed by the Paris Mounties (4-2) in third.
In last Thursday’s game, the Jacks spotted the home team a couple of early goals to start the game before taking control. It was all Wellesley for the remainder of the frame: Warren Gorman (Owen Lane) got the Jacks on the board at 5:23. The next goal less than two minutes later was Gorman’s as well, assisted by Matt Caskanette and Zach Ribeiro. James Ranson (Steve DeGroot, Keegan Saunders) put Wellesley in the lead for good when he scored at 11:06. Carson Wickie (DeGroot) potted the final goal of the frame at 17:05.
It was 4-2 Wellesley when the period was in the books.
Austin Cousineau (Gianfranco Commisso) kept up the scoring streak into the second stanza six minutes in. Shaun Pickering (Wickie, J. Ranson) capitalized on a power play at 14:09 to make it 6-2 before the Centennials finally found their footing at 19:23, though that was as much of a rally as they would muster.
While the third period saw little scoring, it saw tempers flare; there were 16 penalties between both teams. Wellesley’s Commisso scored the lone goal of the frame at 2:54, with assists going to Pickering and Caskanette. The final buzzer would sound with the scoreboard reading 7-3 for the visitors.
Special teams were a key part of the game, with Wellesley going 3-6 on the power play, while Ayr was 2-8. Shots were 30-23 in favour of the Centennials, who fell to 2-2 with the loss.
“Unfortunately for Ayr they have dropped off … but that’s good for us,” said Brick.
“Woodstock is going to be one of the tougher teams this year,” he added of the team that was next on Wellesley’s schedule.
The Navy Vets did prove to be a more challenging group, though it was Wellesley who drew first blood this time around courtesy of Cousineau (Lane, Gorman) at 4:38. Woodstock was quick to retaliate at 6:13 on a power play. Lane (Caskanette, Commisso) regained Wellesley’s lead at 13:55, and the next goal went to Gorman (J. Ranson, Cousineau) at 19:42 to make it 3-1 after 20 minutes.
There was zero scoring in the second period, which was more notable for a surge in rough play, with eight penalties doled out. The Jacks would finish the night 0-2 with the man-advantage, while Woodstock was 2-4.
The Navy Vets needed just 37 seconds to score when play resumed in the third to make it a one-goal game at 3-2. Wellesley responded at 9:52, courtesy of Commisso (Baker). Woodstock kept up the fight, taking advantage of a power play at 12:01 to pull within one again. Down 4-3 and with just minutes to go, Woodstock pulled their goalie in a last-ditch effort to knot things up. The strategy backfired, however, when the empty net made for easy pickings for Lane (Pickering, J. Ranson) at 18:16.
Despite outshooting the Jacks 41-27, Woodstock fell 5-3.
After a week off, the Jacks have a busy weekend ahead of them. They’re in New Hamburg tomorrow night (Friday at 7:30 p.m.) to take on the Firebirds before their home-opener Saturday night at the St. Clements arena (8 p.m.). Sunday afternoon sees the team in Burford to face the Bulldogs.
“It’s become quite a rivalry for us because they’re close by,” said Brick of the match against the Firebirds (2-3-0-1) that gets things rolling this weekend.