Monday, September 28th, 2009
Renegades hand Merchants first loss
When they left the ice after Friday's final whistle, the Woodstock Renegades were in a very good mood.
While, as Woodstock coach Dave McLaren observed, the 4-2 win was "only one game," he did admit there was something satisfying about handing the Norwich Merchants their first loss of the season. Given Norwich's dominance of the Niagara Junior C Hockey League's west division in the past few seasons, including last season's gritty division semifinal series against Woodstock, the early win was likely doubly satisfying for the Renegades, especially coming in their rival's barn.
"It's very satisfying to come in and win our first game against them for sure," McLaren said. "They're a solid team and a solid organization."
Despite the longtime solidity of the Norwich organization, Friday's loss suggested the Merchants might not be quite the powerhouses they were last season when they took the league title. In the game's opening period, Woodstock looked the better team, capitalizing on a few Norwich mistakes to take an early and lasting lead.
Taking their cues from McLaren and his holistic team-first approach, the Renegades played a balanced game against the Merchants. Bolstered by solid defensive zone coverage -- something Woodstock has been working on to counter the loss of some veteran blue-liners -- the Renegades were able to unsettle of Norwich offence.
This defensive mindset, coupled with another solid game from goalie Alex Gegeny, definitely helped when the Merchants picked up the pace late in the game.
"We had some big games from Gegeny and (defenceman) Andy Fallowfield," McLaren said.
Woodstock captain Cole Maher netted the eventual game winner early in the second period, taking a pass from Fallowfield and wristing the puck into the top corner. Dan Phillips provided the cushion for the Renegades, muscling his way out of the corner to flick the puck past Norwich goalie Matt McGonigle.
"We don't have any superstars," McLaren said, "but we have a solid team top to bottom. We've got a good mix of new players and some solid veterans.
"So far, it's really good."
Woodstock opened the scoring midway through the first period when Tyler Labadie stripped a Norwich defenceman of the puck during an early 4-on-4 and scored on the ensuing rush. Ethan Doan scored the second Woodstock goal, tipping a Travis Horvath pass past McGonigle near the end of the frame.
Bryan Phillips and Stuart Preston answered for the Merchants, who, despite outshooting the Renegades almost 2-to-1, struggled to beat the red-hot Gegeny. With the win, Woodstock improved to an undefeated 2-0-0 record for the young Niagara season. The Renegades are next scheduled to play at home on Friday against the Simcoe Storm.