Jacks cleared hurdles in championship season, now prepare for the next

Last updated on May 25, 23

Posted on May 25, 23

3 min read

When the Wellesley Applejacks claimed their first-ever Schmalz Cup earlier this month, it was not only the culmination of nine long seasons since making the jump to the Junior C level, it was also the capper on a season that saw them overcome a lot of adversity.

The successful year certainly didn’t start out that way, with the Jacks winning just four times in their first 10 games. However, the team was able to turn things around and take second in the South Doherty Division regular season standings, finishing with 66 points in 42 games, just one point behind the New Hamburg Firebirds.

“We made a lot of changes from last year’s roster. And then it just took a little bit for the boys to get gelling together, playing good hockey, playing the systems that obviously (head coach) Ryan (Gerber) wanted them to play,” said GM Brock Gerber.

That turnaround included a 17-game winning streak, and only three more regulation losses the rest of the way.

Forward Kyle Baker was named division MVP after posting 19 goals and 45 assists for a total of 64 points in 40 games. This was his second straight division MVP.

“We had an opportunity to bring him in and we had to make some hard decisions, but obviously when a guy like that is available, you want to better your hockey team. You’ve got to make those tough decisions to do that. He played very well for us all year long. He was consistent night in and night out – I can’t say enough good things about him,” Gerber said of Baker.

Baker was joined by three other overage players who have now graduated from the PJHL: Justin McCombs, Patrick Klazer and Koby Seiling.

The team moved quickly through the first two rounds of the division playoffs, with a first round sweep over the Hespeler Shamrocks and five-game second-round victory over the Norwich Merchants.

“They were [four] pretty close scores, but we found a way to win every night, obviously,” Gerber said of the first series. “Then we moved on to play Norwich… and they were a big, physically strong team as well, and the guys just found a way to win every day – they just stuck to our blue collar style hockey.”

The division final was a lot closer, with the Jacks winning in six games over the Firebirds to give the team its second-ever Doherty Division championship.

After dropping the first game of the South Conference final against the Glanbrook Rangers, the Jacks stormed back with a 3-2 overtime win in game two and didn’t look back, taking the final three games of the series and punching their ticket to Schmalz Cup final four.

The Jacks got contributions at different times from every player on its 23-man roster, Gerber noted.

“It was a different lineup every night throughout the whole postseason. There wasn’t a long stretch where we had everybody in that we wanted in, but every night due to injury or suspensions we had different lineups,” he said.

Wellesley then won two of its three round-robin games, defeating the Lakeshore Canadiens 3-2 in overtime of the semi-final to move onto the final where they defeated the Clarington Eagles by that same 3-2 score.

Looking ahead to next season the Jacks will have eight to ten players return, including four of the nine 20-year-olds that were with the team this year. The team will also look to have its 2003-born players take a bigger role, a list that includes Eric Lacey and Austin Stemmler, and 2004-born, Connor Doerbecker and Jake L’Heureux. The team will also look to its neighbouring township to help fill out its roster, Gerber said.

“We’ll be looking between the local minor hockey and Woolwich Minor Hockey to fill open roster spots, that’s for sure.”

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Bill Atwood

Bill Atwood is a full-time journalist / photographer at The Observer.

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