Monday, February 01st, 2010

'Gades dominate the weekend

It's almost as if the Woodstock Renegades wanted to send a message with their final two games of the regular season.

And if that was, in fact, the case, the other teams in the Niagara District Junior C League's west division should pay attention to the memo. Granted, the 'Gades were playing the two worst teams in the division, but the wins were so emphatic that better teams would be wide to take notice. The Woodstock coaching staff has made no secret that the latter part of the regular season was preparation for a postseason run.

Things may be clicking.

"We treated those games like playoffs games," Woodstock head coach Bill McLeod said. "That was part of the theory. These are the last games before playoffs, and we need to get things right."

In Saturday's 7-1 rout of the Aylmer Spitfires, the Renegades did a terrific job of making the most of their chances, particularly with the extra man. After finishing the first 20 minutes locked in a 1-1 tie, the 'Gades started to put some distance between themselves and the sputtering Spitfires with three second-period goals.

The first two-- Spencer Sweazy's game-winner and Craig Thomson's insurance marker-- were both scored on the power play while Jordan Minello, the rookie of the year, rounded out the frame with an unassisted goal.

"Our rookies -- all of them -- are playing well," McLeod said. "Brandon Zimmerman. Sweazy has something like four goals in the past couple of games and a couple of assists."

The 'Gades e barrage in the final frame, with Sweazy and Babb adding to the power-play total and Travis Horvath scoring Woodstock's second even-strength goal of the night. Babb actually opened the Woodstock scoring with five minutes left in the first period, tying the game with a shorthanded goal about seven minutes after Mark Pfohl had given Aylmer a short-lived lead.

While the offensive output was a welcome sign of the Renegades' recent preparations, their success on the power play -- a robust 40% for a team that was among the worst in the division -- was a good omen.

While not quite as lopsided, Friday's 4-1 win against the cellar-dwelling Paris Mounties seemed just as one-sided. Providing a kind of foreshadowing for their Saturday night, the 'Gades took control with a three-goal second period, starting with a Sweazy blooper that bounced in off Paris goalie Tanner Armstrong. Tyler Labadie, who earned the assist on the bouncer, scored the second of the period, rifling in a beautiful Sweazy pass to give the shorthanded 'Gades a three-goal lead. Brandon Zimmerman scored the final goal of the period, helping Woodstock to a 4-0 lead going into the final period.

While Andrew Pawluk scored a shorthanded goal late in the third, the Mounties really didn't mount much of an effort while Woodstock goalie Alex Gegeny s solid play. The 'Gades opened the scoring early in the first period, taking the lead when Babb beat two Paris defenders and Armstrong.

With the two wins, the Renegades finished the regular season firmly ensconced in third place with a respectable 19-13-4 record. With a first-round bye, the 'Gades now have some time off before facing their second-round opponents, which, given the seedings, will likely be the Norwich Merchants, who are looking to defend their division and league titles.

"We definitely needed the break," McLeod said. "We sat a lot of guys with injuries (ont the weekend). It's better that we have a little rest."

The little rest will also give the Renegades some time to perfect their systems while doing a little reconnaissance of the Merchants. McLeod envisioned some rigorous on-ice practices followed by some team trips to Norwich and Paris.

"We'll be watching them," the coach said. "Our players will be there too."

(Source Sentinel-Review)