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Merchants streak to 14th straight win

Junior B team is 25-2-1 with 10 games left until the playoffs

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 08, 2014 06:00 am

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  • PUCK MOVER - Jeff Harrison of the St. Albert Merchants looks to make a pass while pressured by Tom Brennan of the North Edmonton Red Wings in Friday's 4-1 win at Akinsdale Arena. Sunday the first-place Merchants (25-2-1) extended their winning streak to 14 games by blanking the Strathcona Bruins 6-0 in Fultonvale.
    PUCK MOVER - Jeff Harrison of the St. Albert Merchants looks to make a pass while pressured by Tom Brennan of the North Edmonton Red Wings in Friday's 4-1 win at Akinsdale Arena. Sunday the first-place Merchants (25-2-1) extended their winning streak to 14 games by blanking the Strathcona Bruins 6-0 in Fultonvale.
    APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette
  • RUBBED OUT - Dylan Stang is checked into the boards by McKenzie Croken of the North Edmonton Red Wings in Friday's junior B game at Akinsdale Arena. Stang, an affiliated player, scored once in the 4-1 win.
    RUBBED OUT - Dylan Stang is checked into the boards by McKenzie Croken of the North Edmonton Red Wings in Friday's junior B game at Akinsdale Arena. Stang, an affiliated player, scored once in the 4-1 win.

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The good times continue to roll for the St. Albert Merchants.

The 14th straight win by the No. 1 team in the Capital Junior B Hockey League was Sunday’s 6-0 defensive gem against the Strathcona Bruins at Fultonvale.

“We definitely want to keep it going. We don’t want it to stop. There is no better feeling than winning,” said centre Liam McNamara. “Everyone is having a good time. It’s real fun hockey.”

The 25-2-1 Merchants have 10 games remaining before the quest begins for their first Founders Cup championship since 2005.

“We’re doing really good in the standings but the season doesn’t really matter at this point. It’s playoffs that we’re looking forward to. It’s a brand new season, the playoffs, so we have to keep it up but we’re confident we can do it,” McNamara said.

The Merchants continued their winning ways into the new year in Friday’s 4-1 decision over the North Edmonton Red Wings (15-9-2) at Akinsdale Arena.

“That was a hard fought battle. We had to work really hard for that one. They came out gunning for us,” McNamara said. “We had a short bench too. There were a bunch of people on vacation and a couple of guys were sick. It was our first game back as well (from the Christmas break) so we were all kind of out of shape.”

In the first period Blair Macuch sniped his 12th goal of the season and McNamara was credited with the 2-0 marker on the power play, but it was actually scored by his twin brother, Mitch.

“We had to get the first period under our belts and get the jitters out. Once we did that we got going,” McNamara said.

Zac Carr replied for the Red Wings with his 23rd goal during a penalty-filled second frame.

In the third Brent McGugan made it 3-1 on the power play with his 18th of the season and affiliate Dylan Stang was set up by the McNamara twins with 6:29 to play in his first game with the Merchants.

The Merchants had 12 power plays, compared to five for the Red Wings.

Shots were 38-20 for the Merchants. In net was Max Cathcart (8-2).

“We played a really good defensive game,” McNamara said. “We only had three lines so everyone had to be going and everyone had to work together to get that win under our belts.”

Justin Pawlenchuk (17-1) posted his second shutout and the team’s fifth of the season against Strathcona (11-15-1).

“He played amazing that game,” McNamara said of the Merchants’ most valuable player and CJHL first team all-star netminder last season.

Sunday’s scoring summary wasn’t posted on the CJHL website at press time.

McNamara, 19, described the team’s performance as similar to Friday’s win against the Red Wings, ranked second in the west division behind the Merchants.

“We played really good. We were good defensively that game too. We also had a short bench as well so we all had to really work together. It’s hard playing like that when you don’t have very many people. Lots of people were double shifting.”

The addition of the twins was a major coup for the Merchants in their quest for championship honours at the CJHL and provincial levels. The St. Albert hockey products spent time in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the St. Albert Steel at the start of the 2011/12 campaign and last season with the Spruce Grove Saints and Lloydminster Bobcats.

The McNamaras’ AJHL rights were traded by the Whitecourt Wolverines, formerly the Steel, to Spruce Grove on July 12 last year for two players.

On Jan. 8 they were dealt by the Saints to Lloydminster for three players and on June 20 were traded to the Portage Terriers in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League for future considerations.

Mitch, a left winger who was welcomed into the world ahead of Liam, recorded three goals, eight assists and 39 penalty minutes in 51 AJHL games. Liam notched three goals, six assists and 50 PIM in 60 games.

With the Merchants, Liam has nine goals, 20 assists and 44 PIM in 25 games, compared to Mitch’s 15 goals, 11 assists and 46 PIM in 26 games.

“It really wasn’t a hard decision to make,” said Liam, a university science student like Mitch, on joining the Merchants. “We were getting traded everywhere so we decided we better go to school and play for a local team and play with all of our friends.”

The twins have also been heavily recruited by the St. Albert Rugby Football Club after lighting up the pitch in Grade 12 for the St. Albert Skyhawks, winners of the 2012 metro Edmonton city conference championship and consolation finalists at the Tier II (3A schools) high school provincials as the Edmonton zone rep.

The Merchants are back on the ice Friday against the Beverly Warriors (14-13) at 8 p.m. at Londonderry Arena.

Sunday they host the Leduc Riggers (10-14-3) at 8 p.m.


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