Picking up five of six points in the past week has the Wellesley Applejacks within striking range of first place in their division as the regular season wraps up.
A 3-3 tie with the Ayr Centennials January 23 was followed by a 5-3 win over Woodstock on Saturday and a 20-1 thrashing of Delhi the following day.
Those results brought Wellesley (26-6-2-4) within two points of the first-place Tavistock Braves (28-5-3-1) in the Provincial Junior Hockey League’s South Doherty Division standings.
Club president Terry Brick said that the Applejacks still have a chance at the top spot before the regular season comes to a close this weekend.
“I’m thinking about first place. If we win our last games … it’ll come down to the Friday night game in Tavistock for deciding first place because we’re only two points behind them right now,” said Brick. “If we beat them, and then we beat New Hamburg, we’re in first place.”
Last Thursday night’s game in North Dumfries got off to a strong start, with Wellesley’s Steve DeGroot drawing first blood unassisted at 3:34. There were some back-and-forth penalties doled out to both teams, but a high sticking call on Ayr’s side ended up costing them. James Ranson scored on a power play at 16:29, with Kyle Fischer and Justin McCombs picking up assists.
The second stanza was relatively quiet, save for a handful of penalties. Austin Cousineau (Gianfranco Commisso) potted one more for Wellesley at 16:59, giving the visitors a comfortable 3-0 lead heading into the third.
But the final frame was all about the Centennials, who rallied to come back with a vengeance. Their first goal came at 3:40, followed by another marker at 7:21. Another goal just over a minute later made it 3-3.
There was no more scoring in regulation, sending the two teams to overtime. That solved nothing, as neither team was able to find the net, not even when Wellesley took a too-many-men penalty. It was 3-3 when all was said and done, Ayr having outshot the Jacks 38-33.
On Saturday, the Applejacks weren’t gracious hosts to the Navy Vets, though things started off rather dicey. Woodstock opened the scoring with unassisted power play marker at 6:03. Woodstock made it 2-0 a few minutes later on a goal from former Applejack Reade MacInnes.
Trailing going into the third, the Jacks kept their cool. Zach Ribeiro (McCombs, Commisso) put the Applejacks on the board at 3:37. Cousineau followed up shortly after at 5:54, with assists going to Conner Bradley and Carson Wickie. Commisso (McCombs, James Ranson) joined in on the scoring frenzy at 13:08, and gave Wellesley the lead for the first time.
Woodstock wasn’t about to go down without a fight, however, capitalizing on a power play at 14:15. But thanks to an unassisted goal by Cousineau at 17:18, Wellesley finally gained a lead that they would never relinquish – 4-3 after 40 minutes.
The final period was more notable for its roughhousing than for its scoring, with 34 minutes worth of penalty box time served between the two teams. That was significantly higher than any other frame. The lone goal came from Cousineau (Matt Caskanette) at 7:59, achieving a hat trick in the process of clinching the win. When the final buzzer went off, it was a 5-3 win for Wellesley.
Shots were 45-27 in favour of the home team.
There was no back-and-forth, let alone any doubt of the outcome, the following night, as the Jacks went into Delhi and played a textbook game of “score early and often” on route to a 20-1 victory over the Travellers, who’ve yet to win a game this season (0-39)
“I got to give [Delhi] credit: they keep playing, they keep coming out, knowing what’s going to happen to them,” said Brick. “We have some other teams that start fighting and get chippy, but Delhi just plays and doesn’t give into the fighting or penalties. They just take it like gentlemen, I’ll call it.”
Commisso (McCombs) opened scoring almost instantly 47 seconds into the match. Troy Vandenbussche (Commisso) followed up at 5:40, then DeGroot (J. Ranson, Commisso) joined in on the fun at 7:00. J. Ranson potted another at 7:23, with Zach Ribeiro picking up the assist. Just past the midway point, the Travellers got on the board to make it 4-1, but that would be it for them.
McCombs made sure any optimism was shortlived, potting the 5th Wellesley goal at 11:14. Assists went to Commisso and J. Ranson. Vandenbussche (Shaun Pickering, Kyle Fischer) scored another at 16:22. Ribeiro joined in on the feeding frenzy at 19:25, with Aaron Skinner picking up the assists.
By the end of the first frame, Wellesley had a 7-1 lead, truly setting the tone for the rest of the match. The lead would only get higher in the second and third, giving the floundering Travellers no chance to respond this time.
Like the first frame, Commisso scored almost immediately at 48 seconds in, with Pickering and Caskenette grabbing the assists. This was followed by three consecutive goals from the same Wellesley player, Koby Seiling, who achieved a hat trick in the process. He had not scored once until this point. The first came at 1:34 (Ribeiro, Pickering), the next at 2:23 (Ribeiro, Keegan Saunders) and 3:42 (Ribeiro). Pickering kept the ball rolling at 10:09, with the assist going to McCombs. DeGroot (Skinner, Commisso) potted another at 12:36. Fischer wrapped up scoring this frame at 19:48, with Seiling and McCombs picking up the assists.
The Wellesley Applejacks did not let up, keeping the heat on the Travellers well into the third frame. McCombs (Commisso, Skinner) quickly picked up the first goal 35 seconds in, then potted another just seconds later at 0:49. This made it a hat trick for McCombs, and Commisso and Ribeiro took the assists. Fischer (Pickering, Ribeiro) kept up the momentum at 4:24.
Ribeiro (Vandenbussche, Daniel McCutcheon) scored again at 7:38, then Pickering (McCutcheon, McCombs) at 10:30. McCombs scored the final goal of the match at 12:04, with Caskanette and Fischer picking up the assists.
When it was all over, Wellesley had harshed all over Delhi 20-1, with shots overwhelmingly in Wellesley’s favour at 84-34.
While that kind of scoring is unlikely to keep going this weekend, the Jacks are looking to maintain their winning ways. Friday night, they head to Tavistock to take on the Braves at 8 p.m., then host the New Hamburg Firebirds (17-15-3-3) on Saturday. Game time is 8 p.m.
“I don’t want to take New Hamburg lightly because they beat us 4-1 last time we played them in New Hamburg. That wasn’t supposed to happen,” said Brick.
With those games, the Jacks finish their PJHL regular season, then start preparing for the playoffs.