Merchants skate in semifinals
Wetaskiwin wins game one in junior B playoff series
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 09, 2013 06:00 am
A slow start by the St. Albert Merchants left the junior B team trailing the Wetaskiwin Icemen in the junior B semifinals.
In Wednesday’s 4-2 loss in game one in St. Albert, Suede Omeasoo of the Icemen scored once in the first period and twice in the middle frame on the penalty kill and the power play before the Merchants got on the scoreboard with goals by Ryan Harrison with the man advantage and Jared Kwasney at even strength.
But 44 seconds after Kwasney cut the deficit to 3-2, D.J. Bennefield beat backup goalie Max Cathcart for the insurance marker with 3:13 left in regulation time.
“I really thought we outworked them but sometimes luck isn’t really on your side in those games,” said right-winger Mike Roeleveld. “The shots at one point were 24-6 and they were up 2-0 so they capitalized a lot more on their chances.”
A dust-up between Taylor Wiebe of the Merchants and Brandon Wark of the Icemen in the second and St. Albert down 3-0 lit a fire under the home team.
“When Taylor had that big fight it got our momentum going,” said centre Blair Macuch. “We battled back and got a couple of goals but then they scored again.”
Cathcart came off the bench after Omeasoo’s third goal to replace Justin Pawlenchuk, who started all eight playoff games while compiling a 5-3 record and 2.85 GAA in 484 minutes played.
Game two in the best-of-seven series was played Friday in Wetaskiwin, but the score was unavailable at press time.
“We’ll bounce back on Friday and give it a better shot than we did (Wednesday),” said Roeleveld, who assisted on both goals in the loss for a team-high 10 playoff points.
Game three is Sunday at Akinsdale Arena and game four is Wednesday in Wetaskiwin. Start times are 8 p.m.
If needed, game five is 8 p.m. Friday in St. Albert, game six is March 17 at 2 p.m. in Wetaskiwin and game seven is March 19 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Albert.
In league play the Merchants (22-12-4) finished third in the west division and the Icemen (25-12-1) placed second in the east standings.
The Icemen swept the season series 4-3 in overtime in a penalty-filled affair at home in October and 6-4 in December in St. Albert.
“They’re a good team. I have a lot of respect for them,” Roeleveld said. “They’re very opportunistic. They don’t get very many chances so when they do they certainly know how to put the puck in the net, especially on the power play. Their special teams is definitely something that is keeping them going and their size as well is a main contributor to their success.”
The winner will challenge the Sherwood Park Knights or the North Edmonton Red Wings in the best-of-five Founders Cup championship.
The two finalists automatically qualify for the April 4 to 7 provincials in Wainwright.
The last Founders Cup for the Merchants was 2005.
Macuch, 19, believes the Money Men have something special going.
“Our team is clicking. We’ve got a lot of chemistry going. We’re working as hard as we can, taking it one shift at a time and doing what we have to do,” he said.
The Merchants are coming off an emotionally draining five-game tug-of-war with the Beverly Warriors.
“(The Icemen) are pretty similar to Beverly. They’re quick and they don’t give up too many chances. We just have to keep working hard and eventually we’ll get our chances,” Macuch said.
Three games against Beverly were decided in overtime, including Sunday’s game five 4-3 thriller at Londonderry Arena.
“It was a real emotional rollercoaster ride the whole series,” Roeleveld said. “In the first game we were down 3-0 (early in period two) and we came back and won it in overtime (5-4 on captain Brady Reid’s goal). It was a good team effort. We sure put a lot of heart into it.
“We had a lot of momentum going into game two and we won 7-3. Every was going in that one.”
Beverly battled back to blank the Merchants 7-0 in game three and evened the series with a 3-2 victory in four OT periods in St. Albert. Evan Kuhr cashed in a power play opportunity in the 116th minute of play with Kwasney in the box for cross-checking.
“We were working really hard in overtime. We kept getting scoring chances and Beverly didn’t get many but they did capitalize on their chance when they got the puck on the power play,” Roeveled said. “A lot of us were upset and thought there shouldn’t have been a penalty called there but that’s the way the game goes. You can’t really change it.”
There was no scoring after Beverly tied at two with 2:54 to go in period two.
Reid tallied twice in the marathon affair.
“After that loss we really didn’t have any momentum going into game five but we battled through it and gave it our all. We didn’t want to lose that game at all,” Macuch said.
Roeleveld, 19, sent the deciding game into OT with a dramatic power-play goal with 21 seconds left in regulation time after Beverly went ahead 3-2 with 69 seconds to play.
With Pawlenchuk pulled for the extra attacker, the Merchants caught Beverly on an odd-man rush.
“We were going in four on two and I think it was Ryan Harrison who was driving wide with it. He gave me a good pass and I was wide open in the slot and I shot it low blocker side,” Roeleveld said. “It’s easy to say that was the biggest goal I’ve scored in my junior career. It was the best feeling I’ve ever had.”
Big Mo was on the Merchants’ side against a shell-shocked Beverly squad.
“That goal lifted our spirits a lot and gave us a lot more hope, especially going into the overtime period. I know all the boys had a lot of faith in winning that game,” Roeleveld said.
Macuch capped off the comeback with a wrister from the ringette line that sailed over the shoulder of netminder Chris Wray at 4:05 in OT.
Macuch credited Kwasney for giving him the puck in the neutral zone.
“I went one on one against the D and just ripped a shot,” Macuch said of his third goal of the playoffs. “I couldn’t believe it actually went in. I had to take a second look to make sure.”
Harrison also had two goals and Casey Reid added three assists in game five.