Merchants too strong to stop
Junior B team winners of 11 straight at 22-2-1
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert Merchants banked their 11th straight win and 22nd in 25 games in Sunday’s 11-0 throttling of the Stony Plain Flyers at Akinsdale Arena.
Nine players scored and Max Cathcart (7-2, 2.20 GAA) faced only 19 shots while recording his third shutout of the season for the No. 1 team in the Capital Junior B Hockey League.
Friday the Merchants spread the scoring around as eight skaters contributed in the 8-3 road win over the defending Founders Cup champion Sherwood Park Knights.
In both games combined the Merchants outshot their opponents 90-46.
“That does speak to puck possession and the strength of both our offence and defence,” said Scott Rodda, head coach of the 22-2-1 Merchants.
Ryan Harrison struck in the first period against the Knights (12-8-3), Liam McNamara, Brent McGugan and Josh Jewell connected in the second and Sandan Hunter, Casey Reid, Mitch McNamara and Jed Groenenboom rounded out the scoring in the third.
Jewell, Reid and Stefan Meunier had two helpers apiece.
Justin Pawlenchuk (15-1, 2.56 GAA) posted the win with 24 saves.
A 1-1 score in the first turned into a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes.
“Pawlenchuk had to be solid early on in the game when the Park was buzzing,” said Rodda.
He noted the depth of the Merchants was clearly evident as the game wore on and started to capitalize on turnovers.
Sunday’s blowout was a repeat of the game in Sherwood Park in some aspects. As it progressed the Merchants kept improving and eventually wore down the Flyers.
Thirteen players registered points against the Flyers (11-13-1).
A.J. Yariwon tallied twice and added two assists to pace the attack.
Mitch McNamara potted a pair and Jared Kwasney, Dan Rombough, Hunter, Jewell, Reid, Meunier and McGugan notched singles as the Merchants racked up 44 shots.
The last home game before the Christmas break is Friday versus the Beverly Warriors (13-10). Puck drop is 8 p.m.
It’s shaping up to be a full house as local minor hockey teams have been invited to watch the team to beat in the CJHL.
The Merchants will be under the gun with several key players missing due to the holidays.
“This is one game our depth will be thoroughly tested with so many regulars out of the lineup,” Rodda said.
The Merchants will also be selling a team calendar created to help support the St. Albert Food Bank and the Merchants Hockey Club.
“I think the players will be pleased with the calendar and we’re hopeful the fans enjoy it as well,” Rodda said.
Meanwhile, the Merchants’ coaching staff was officially named the coaches for the west division team at the CJHL’s main all-star game Jan. 18 in Wetaskiwin.
“Being selected is great but it’s more a testament of the players than anything the coaches are doing. These guys have worked hard and continue to prove that they are eager and willing to be coached. It certainly makes it a lot easier to find success when you are working with positive attitudes and commitment,” Rodda said.