Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Merchants find tough opponent in Renegades
The Renegades are an early season nut the Norwich Merchants haven't yet been able to crack.
In the first two games of this year's regular-season Battle of Highway 59, the Woodstock Renegades have skated away with the wins-- including Sunday's 2-1 victory. To-date, the Merchants' only losses are to the Renegades.
Norwich started the weekend in a more usual fashion, a 7-3 drubbing of the New Hamburg Firebirds at home Friday. They couldn't replicate that success at the Southwood Arena Sunday, where fans were treated to a fast-moving delight of a game.
"Towards the end of the game, we just said 'get it deep and start getting shots on net,'" Merchants' coach Chad Paton said. "I give their goaltender (Alex Gegeny) props-- he played great... we have to prep our guys better."
Gegeny was one of the stories of the night, with shots on goal favouring the Merchants by an almost two-to-one margin. In the dying seconds of play, with an extra Merchants' attacker on the ice, Gegeny's acrobatics helped keep the game from heading into overtime and preserve the win.
"He was the real difference... Their offence battled hard," Renegades coach Dave McLaren said. "With Alex, we haven't done anything special. We do have someone who will come in and start working with our goalies on Tuesdays."
Another theme Sunday was the Renegades' work ethic. Throughout the better part of the first 45 to 50 minutes of play, the Woodstock players were doing a lot of little things right. From winning faceoffs to winning the battles for pucks to digging in the corners, the team bested the defending league champions in many respects.
"It was a good solid team effort here tonight," McLaren said. "I think what we're seeing is the coachability of this group is very good. There are the little things we're working on and we're seeing the results.
"For the most part they're picking up on the right things to pick up on."
The shot differential was a bright spot for the Merchants, with Paton crediting the team's response to the bench's defensive strategies.
"They (Woodstock) only got 16 shots and we held them to that, which is a credit to our D-- they did their job," Paton said. "I'm happy with our defensive zone coverage. With new coaching and players, they're starting to understand their defensive roles.
"If we take care of our own end, the offence will take care of itself."
That said, Paton said the squad would need to be better prepared for its next encounter with the Renegades, an Oct. 23 outing at the Nor-Del Arena.
The two Oxford teams see a lot of each other early this season, with half their traditional six matchups taking place before the end of this month.
The schedule has been such that the Renegades have started the season playing only the Aylmer Spitfires, the Merchants and the Simcoe Storm for the first eight games. It's not until Oct. 24 that the Renegades will get a first look at the New Hamburg Firebirds and the team won't see the Paris Mounties for the first time until Oct. 30.
"Every year it's the same thing when they build the schedule-- you play one team a lot and then you don't see them again until the end of the season," McLaren said.
So far the bench is happy with what's in front of them, he said. It's still possible if a player becomes available the team might add to its lineup, but for the time being McLaren's content with what he sees-- strong effort, coachability and scoring from all four lines.
"We don't go up seven in a game like Simcoe, but the kids are working hard," he said.