The Wellesley Applejacks suffered their first regulation loss of the season last Friday, bouncing back to post a tie and a win as the weekend went on.
The loss came at the hands of the New Hamburg Firebirds by a final score of 3-2. Things got better on Saturday at the home-opener in St. Clements, where a rematch ended in a 3-3 draw. There was nothing close about the finish on Sunday, however, as the Jacks skated to a 5-0 win over the Bulldogs in Burford.
The three points picked up by the Jacks (6-1-1-1) were enough to keep the team atop the standings in the South Doherty division of the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) with 14 points.
Assistant coach Brock Gerber said that while the results were not ideal, he saw much to be proud of in the way the team performed.
“It definitely didn’t go quite as expected. We were missing a couple of guys – I thought the boys played hard with a short lineup,” said Gerber.
During Friday’s game, it was Wellesley’s Warren Gorman (Danny Ranson, Matt Caskanette) who drew first blood early at 1:14; the Firebirds retaliated late at 15:42. The second frame saw little scoring, save for a New Hamburg marker at 5:38.
The final period saw the most action – while there was little in the way of scoring, tempers flared and 10 penalties doled out between the two teams. Gorman (James Ranson) evened the score at 4:29 before the Firebirds regained the lead at 13:36. The 3-2 final was Wellesley’s first loss since the season-opener, also a 3-2 loss though the Tavistock Braves needed OT to reach that decision.
“New Hamburg … they worked hard, and they outworked us this past weekend,” said Gerber. “They deserve the points.”
A quick rematch the following day gave the Applejacks a chance to redeem themselves during the first game of the season playing in the township. The action took place in St. Clements, the venue booked when the Wellesley arena’s availability was still up in the air.
“It was a pretty good crowd; we were around the 200 mark, so that’s not bad,” said Gerber.
James Ranson put Wellesley on the board at 14:33. Carson Wickie and Shaun Pickering picked up the assists.
Danny Ranson (Caskanette, Connor Bradley) kept up the momentum in the second stanza, scoring at 3:41. New Hamburg finally found their footing, potting a shorthanded, unassisted goal at 15:26.
Pickering (Wickie) put Wellesley further ahead at 3:52, but the Firebirds retaliated quickly at 4:49. With just under three minutes left to go, New Hamburg managed to tie the game, taking advantage of a power play at 17:38. That forced overtime, where there was no scoring. The 3-3 tie went into the books.
Wellesley outshot their rivals slightly, 42-39.
They fared much better during Sunday’s game against the Burford Bulldogs. There was no scoring in the first period, but Wellesley scored early in the second courtesy of Brendan Baker (Zachary Lyons, Pickering) at 2:40.
It was 1-0 for the visitors after 40 minutes.
The pace picked up in the third, which saw something of an Applejacks scoring frenzy. Baker set the tone with a goal at 6:31, assisted by Pickering and Caskanette.
Caskanette (Pickering, Noah Benjamin) potted a goal of his own at 7:10. Benjamin kept things rolling at 16:02, with Pickering and Baker grabbing assists. Lyons scored the final goal unassisted at 17:24, wrapping up the match at 5-0.
The shot-count was a little less lopsided, however, as Wellesley had a 39-30 advantage.
After a busy weekend, the Jacks have the better part of two weeks to take a breather, get their missing players back in the lineup, hone their strategy and enjoy a turkey dinner or two – play doesn’t resume until October 18.
“We actually get a week off, so we don’t play next weekend. We’ll get a bit of a break here now, then we get back to Wellesley on the 18th,” said Gerber. “We do have a couple of practices and whatnot over the next couple days, to get ready for the home-opener.”
The game will indeed be a second home-opener, as it’ll be the first at the Wellesley arena this season, as the Ayr Centennials come calling for an 8 p.m. start. Two days later, on October 20, the Woodstock Navy Vets are in town for a 2 p.m. matinee.