Jacks defeat Firebirds in six, advance to second round

The Wellesley Applejacks’ win over the Firebirds in New Hamburg on Feb. 21 saw the team advance to the second round of the PJHL playoffs. [Damon Maclean]

The Wellesley Applejacks advanced to the second round of the Provincial Junior Hockey League playoffs by defeating the New Hamburg Firebirds in six games.

With that, the Jacks are now playing the Ayr Centennials in a best-of-seven series that got underway Wednesday night.

The deciding match in the opening series came last Friday night at the Wilmot arena, where the Jacks posted a 6-4 win.

Wellesley got on the board first when Warren Gorman, assisted by Gianfranco Commisso and Steven DeGroot, scored at 7:04. New Hamburg’s Zach Mark tied it up exactly 10 minutes later, the score deadlocked at 1-1 as the teams headed back to the room.

In the second, the home side took the lead on a Brady Schmidt goal at 8:37, but the Jacks would respond with three goals in a seven-minute stretch to take control of the game.

Conner Bradley made it 2-2 at 11:39, assisted by DeGroot and Matt Caskanette. A minute later it was 3-2 Jacks on a goal by Carson Wickie (Gorman). Justin McComb’s goal at 17:09 gave Wellesley the lead for good. Gorman picked up an assist on that one too.

New Hamburg’s Matt Mercier got his team within one when he scored at 6:15 of the third period, but Zach Ribeiro (Commisso, Caskanette) replied less than a minute later. A minute and a half after that, Ryan George got the Firebirds within one again – 5-4 – courtesy of a power-play goal. But that was as far as any comeback went.

With just six seconds left on the clock, McCombs (Wickie) capped off the win with another goal.

Final shots were 41-29 in favour of Wellesley in a match that was notable for few penalties – just seven in total over 60 minutes – though perhaps not surprising given what was at stake in an elimination game.

The round-two series with the Centennials opened Wednesday night (results weren’t available at press time) in Wellesley, with game two set for tonight (Thursday) in Ayr. The teams return to the Wellesley arena Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. before heading back to Ayr for a Sunday matinee (12:30 p.m.).

If necessary, game five is set for March 3 in Wellesley, with game six in Ayr on March 5. If the series goes the distance, game seven will be back in Wellesley on March 7.

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