Monday, March 01st, 2010
Merchants close down Renegades' season
Another series win, another series sweep for the Norwich Merchants.
For the Woodstock Renegades, it was another disappointing finish to a season that had shown glimpses of promise but ultimately resulted in another early playoff exit.
The Merchants won their eighth straight playoff game and booked a spot in the Niagara west final following Friday's 6-2 win over the Renegades at Southwood Arena.
"The team is really focused right now on doing the job and what I'm asking," Merchants' head coach Chad Paton said. "We take care of our own end first and whatever happens, happens. In Woodstock we had a hard time putting it by their goalie (Alex Gegeny) so we put an emphasis on going to the net, getting rebounds and putting bodies in front of him."
The strategy worked in the final two wins, as the Merchants outscored Woodstock 10-3. Norwich was heavily favoured going into the series, but only diehards could have predicted a sweep after the teams split six regular season meetings.
"It could have gone either way the first two games," Paton said. "The last two it was putting the puck in the net (which resulted in) more decisive wins."
The Merchants' choice to forgo the first-round bye and play the Paris Mounties now looks like a stroke of genius.
It was supposed to be a blessing for the Renegades, who were nursing several injuries and had almost three weeks to heal and prepare for a Merchants' team that needed six games to win the Battle of 59 last year.
Instead, the smothering Norwich defence held Woodstock to just six goals in four games. Even worse, the Renegades failed to hold a lead at any point in the series.
"I could let them loose and get more offensive chances but you gotta take care of your own end and frustrate the other team," Paton said. "Matt (Coutts, the Merchants' goaltender) stood tall when he had to."
Chad Barclay had two goals to lead the Merchants. His second tally with 5:04 left in the second period was the winner and broke the Renegades' spirits as Norwich scored two more to take a 5-2 lead into the third.
Mike Rebry, Bryan Phillips and Steven Boyd also scored for Norwich.
Brandon Zimmerman and Justin Pottruff, in his final junior game, replied for Woodstock.
The Merchants will now face the Simcoe Storm or New Hamburg Firebirds. Simcoe held a 3-1 series lead going into Game 5 last night at Talbot Gardens.
"Guys are well prepared," Paton said. "We're going in healthy. As long as we can execute what we want to do and do it hard, good things will come."