Jacks take 3-2 series lead into deciding weekend vs. New Hamburg

Having put the Firebirds on the brink, the Jacks dropped game 5 Saturday at the Wellesley arena. [Damon Maclean]

The Wellesley Applejacks are up 3-2 in their best-of-seven series against the New Hamburg Firebirds, having claimed two of this week’s three games in the first round of the PJHL playoffs.

The Jacks went up 2-1 in the series with a victory February 12, extending that to 3-1 last Friday night before the Firebirds turned the tables the following night.

In game three at the Wellesley arena, the Jacks essentially put the game away in the first period. Goals from Shaun Pickering (assisted by Gianfranco Commisso) at 1:17, Justin McCombs (Kyle Fischer, Owen Lane) at 2:57 and Zach Ribeiro (Matt Caskanette) at 15:54 gave the home team a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Just 50 seconds after play resumed it was 4-0 courtesy of Warren Gorman, assisted by Zack Lyons and James Ranson.

New Hamburg’s Kolton Mooney got the visitors on the board two minutes later. The score would remain 4-1 as the teams returned to the room.

The Firebirds made it a two-goal game when Ryan Shaw scored 2:15 into the third, but they’d get no closer. Gorman scored an empty-netter at 18:14 to round out the 5-2 win, the only one by the home side through five games, as it turns out.

Wellesley rolled out another three-goal lead in game four February 14 in New Hamburg, but things would be much closer, at least for a while.

The Jacks came out flying – they outshot their hosts 21-8 in the opening frame – and were rewarded with goals from McCombs (Gorman) at 16:31 and a power-play marker from Lane (Ranson, Lyons) at 19:41.

In the second, Lane made it 3-0 with an individual effort at 6:39. Three minutes later, the Firebirds started to make a game of it. Goals from Matt Larochelle and Riley Benko in the second made it 3-2 after 40 minutes.

The Firebirds completed the comeback less than a minute and half into the final frame with a goal off the stick of Matt Mercier that made it 3-3. It would remain locked up until 13:16, when the Jacks opened the floodgates.

Lyons (Ranson, Lane) put the Jacks ahead to stay, followed by goals from Gorman (Austin Cousineau) at 17:35 and Ribeiro (Lane) at 18:32 to salt away the 6-3 victory.

Up 3-1 and looking to send the Firebirds packing, the Jacks weren’t able to seal the first-round deal Saturday night in Wellesley.

This time, it was New Hamburg that took the quick lead the visitors would never relinquish.

Just 53 seconds in and enjoying a man-advantage, the Firebirds were up 1-0 thanks to Quinn Bisch. A couple minutes later, New Hamburg was right back at it, with Ryan George scoring at 2:49. The rest of the period went back in forth without any more scoring – it was 2-0 after one.

Zach Mark made it 3-0 for the visitors before the Jacks finally got on the board with a goal from McCombs (Lyons, Gorman) at 16:50. It would stay 3-1 when the period ended.

The same trio got Wellesley within one with a power-play goal 43 seconds after play resumed. But that was it, as New Hamburg’s Cole Stannix at 9:50 rounded out the 4-2 loss.

The Jacks will be looking to claim the series on the road Friday night at the Wilmot arena. Failing that, game seven is set for Saturday night in Wellesley. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. in both instances.

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