Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Merchants finish first-round sweep

The Norwich Merchants have no regrets over choosing to play this first round of the Niagara and District Jr. C league playoffs.

The Merchants swept the Paris Mounties in the first round of the western division championship this weekend with a convincing 7-4 win Friday at home and a 6-2 rout at the Syl Apps Arena in Paris. The series' quick end only reinforced the bench staff members' decision not to sit out this first round of the Merchants' defence of their division and league titles.

"The last weekend of the regular season, we had a couple of games that were inconsequential as far as the standings," Merchants' coach Jarrett Rose said. "We felt it would be very tough to practise through the first round with the kind of intensity we got in this series.

"Norwich has taken the bye the last couple of years and had a tougher time getting their legs going in the second round as a result."

The sweep and any individual game scores aren't to suggest the Merchants simply steamrolled over the Mounties on their way to the next round. The series was a chronicle of an experienced team meeting a young Paris team in the first year of a rebuilding process to get itself out of its seemingly perennial cellar-dwelling status.

"Regardless of whether we were leaving with the win or not tonight, we wanted them to leave with the best effort they could produce and with pride," Paris coach Peter Crosby said. "I think, especially in the third period as Norwich held back and played the safety game, that the guys gave it what they had."

Crosby noted his young team could leave the ice with its head held high after this series, and build on that experience in the seasons to come as it moves into a new arena.

Rose credited Crosby for taking the heat out of some key moments in the game Saturday, recognizing Norwich has more hockey to play in this postseason and taking time-outs. The two coaches even agreed to have Rose use a Norwich timeout late in the third after a scuffle near the Mounties' bench to keep anyone from getting too silly and earning an injury as a result.

"For him to take that timeout allows us to talk to our guys about finishing this game with pride," Crosby said.

Jarrett said it allowed the Merchants to work towards its goal of reaching the end of the first round without any injuries. Norwich is now ready for the next round, as it faces the Woodstock Renegades starting Friday, who've been sitting on the sidelines as a result of the Merchants' decision to play.

The team divided its six-game regular season series with the Renegades this year, a change of pace from the few seasons prior to this one.

"Woodstock's goaltender (Alex Gegeny) has been a major factor in their success against us this year," Rose said. "We have a nice rivalry-- there's lots of players on this team from Woodstock, the coaches live in Woodstock. We'll have no problem getting up for this series...

"We can't take Woodstock lightly though. We have to be ready off the first whistle and a goal early on can decide the game."

(source Sentinel-Review)