Monday, January 17th, 2011


Merchants tie franchise record for wins


WOODSTOCK -The Norwich Merchants keep piling up wins, while the Woodstock Navy Vets have fallen into a rut.

Norwich tied a franchise record with its 28th win after sweeping a pair of weekend games. It started with a victory Friday in Woodstock and finished with a home-ice win Sunday against the New Hamburg Firebirds. Woodstock, meanwhile, all but assured itself a sixth-place finish after losing to Norwich and then Paris on Saturday.

Friday at Southwood Arena, the Merchants put the finishing touches on a season sweep of the Navy Vets, winning 7-1. Norwich won all six games against its county rival, with four of them coming in blowout fashion.

After a scoreless first period, the Merchants scored four second-period goals to break the game wide open.

"We're still not happy with our starts," Merchants' assistant coach Jarrett Rose said. "The way we play when we pick it up a notch, we want to do that for 60 minutes in the playoffs."

Former Woodstock Renegade Mike Brilhante fired a hat trick and added an assist for Norwich. Drake Morrell, Brendan Heffernan, Aaron Wirth and Mike Rebry added single goals.

Rose was pleased with his team's effort and composure.

"I feel like we were the classier organization and team tonight."

Rose was likely referring to the anger coming from the Woodstock bench and directed at referee Brent Stefan. Navy Vets head coach Jeff Morrison didn't hold back afterwards in his assessment of the officiating.

"Just absolutely the worst refereeing I've seen in my life," he said.

Morrison lamented what he felt were several non-calls against Norwich.

"We played well until the referee took it away from us," he said. "They had the momentum (after opening the scoring on the power play) and that was it right there.

"It's embarrassing for the OHA, it really is."

Jamie Newell scored for Woodstock late in the third period. His screened shot from the blue-line found its way past Norwich goaltender Zach Eastveld, who was vying for his second shutout. The goal was Newell's first of his junior career.

Sunday afternoon, Mike Rebry scored the shootout winner to give the Merchants a 4-3 win over the Firebirds. Norwich jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on two goals from Curtis Logan and another from Justin Lehman. New Hamburg scored twice in the second period and then buried the tying goal early in the third to send the game to overtime.

Norwich, which has already clinched first place in the Niagara West Division, improved to 28-1-2. The Merchants are 14 points ahead of second-place New Hamburg and can set a franchise record for wins Wednesday in Aylmer.

Woodstock lost its fourth straight game Saturday, falling 6-3 to the Mounties. The Navy Vets led 1-0 after the first period and 2-1 heading into the third. After Paris tied the game 2-2, Chase Thornton restored Woodstock's advantage with his 16th goal of the season. Paris, though, exploded for four goals in a span of less than five minutes to shock visiting Woodstock. The tying and game-winning goals came 17 seconds apart in the third period.

Brent Wallace and Dylan Lazarus scored the first two Woodstock goals. The loss dealt a crushing blow to the Navy Vets hopes of moving ahead of Paris and into fifth place in the Niagara West Division. Woodstock (7-21-4) fell five points behind Paris with only four games remaining. Paris has two games in hand.