Wed, February 09th, 2011


Merchants take series stranglehold

By Cory Smith, Sentinel-Review

WOODSTOCK — The Norwich Merchants are one win from advancing to the Niagara Junior C West semifinal, but it may have come at a price.

The team lost leading scorer Curtis Logan to a lower body injury in the first period of last night's 8-3 win at Southwood Arena. Norwich leads the best-of-seven series 3-0, and can sweep its county rival Friday night at home.

Logan's status is unknown. The 20-year-old from Woodstock went down early and did not return. He had a team-high 31 goals and 26 assists in the regular season.

"He'll be out for awhile, but we'll take it day-by-day," Norwich head coach Chad Paton said. "We have a deep team and that's why you have depth. It's a long playoff run."

Six different players scored as the Merchants flexed their depth and took a stranglehold on the series. Deadline acquisition Brendan Heffernan scored twice and now has 16 points in 10 games since joining Norwich last month. Bryan Phillips also had a pair of goals, including the game winner with 5:43 remaining in the first period as Norwich took a 4-0 lead.

"We knew what we would be up against," Woodstock head coach Jeff Morrison said. "They have as many 20-year-olds as we have 17-year-olds. It's a learning experience for everybody."

Woodstock has refused to quit against the heavily favoured Merchants, and that was again the case last night. Derek Cowing scored twice and Brynn Shultz added another goal as the Navy Vets made it 4-3 with 9:34 remaining in the second period.

"Our first period tonight was probably our worst all year," Morrison said. "We followed that up with our best period all year."

The Woodstock goals chased Norwich goaltender Zach Eastveld and forced Paton to use his timeout.

"The guys sat back assuming the game was over," he said. "A couple of breaks and they were back in the game."

Paton told his players to get back to simple plays — cycling the puck, getting shots on net and looking for rebounds.

"We dominated play again," Paton said.

Stuart Preston scored an important goal for Norwich 1:13 into the third period to make it 5-3. Justin Lehmann, Mike Brilhante and Cole Vinnai completed the scoring.

"They're just not doing what they need to do consistently," Morrison said of his team's defensive play. "We talked about what we needed to do.

"The scores don't indicate how well Pitter (Woodstock goalie Neil Pittock) has played. The kid has stood on his head for three games but hasn't had any help up front."

Game 4 is Friday in Norwich at 8 p.m. If the Merchants win, they win face Aylmer or Paris in the next round.

"The fourth (win) is always the hardest," Paton said. "We'll play our game and hopefully things will go our way. It would be nice to have a week off. We stayed sharp by playing, but we can have a hard week of practice."