The St. Albert Merchants hit rock bottom Sunday in Morinville.
Their fourth loss in a row was an embarrassing 7-3 effort against the Jets.
Head coach Wes Werhun said the Merchants were not prepared to fight against a very tough opponent.
“They have some skill but they play a very stick-orientated game. The players have to learn to battle through that and push back and if they’re not willing to do that, that is the end result,” he said.
The junior B rivals combined for 301 penalty minutes on 72 infractions. The Jets were penalized 38 times for 166 minutes and the Merchants 34 times for 135 minutes.
“There was some questionable calls both ways but we have to accept what they are and kill them off,” said Werhun. “It’s really tough to the flow of the game when there is so many penalties called. The players get frustrated, the coaches get frustrated, stuff escalates and that’s what happens.”
Posting almost double the penalties minutes than actual minutes in the game is not the way hockey should be played, according to Werhun.
“We had players throwing sticks and having tantrums. It was actually a little embarrassing.”
After finishing the penalty-filled first without a goal, the floodgates opened with six goals in the second, including two for the Merchants by Stefan Meunier and Jamie Umbach. Josh Lafleche and Jorey McRae tallied twice for the Jets.
In the third, Nick Pratt, Dalen Paul and Ben Lamer rounded out the scoring. Kyle Beddows replied for the Merchants.
The winning goalie was Mike Saunders. Curtis Ronaldson took the loss.
Special teams weren’t so special for the Merchants. The Jets struck three times on the power play and twice shorthanded.
Werhun said the score could have been closer if the Merchants had showed more discipline.
“There is a saying in hockey; take one for the team, not yourself. Guys have to realize if they are going to be successful, they have to turn their cheek and wait for next year. Personal vendettas don’t work in a team sport, and just because a guy got the better of you in the corner it doesn’t mean you can get him on the way up the ice and take a selfish penalty to put your team down.”
With the win, the third-place Jets (17-14-0-5) swept the four-game season series and moved four points ahead of the Merchants (17-17-0-1), who share fifth-place with the Edmonton Mustangs (15-16-0-5) in the west division.
Although the Merchants are currently positioned within a playoff spot, they have hit a late season impasse with three games remaining. They have been outscored 16-5 in their last two losses while finishing the month of January at 2-6-0-1.
Werhun believes the playoffs will only be a success if his players learn to match their opponents and focus on the game.
If the season ended today we would play Spruce Grove [18-16-0-2] and I like our chances there. If we end up against Morinville, I think our guys will have to look in the mirror and decide they want to play hockey or turn it into a circus and if its a circus we arent going to win.
The next game is Friday in Leduc against the Riggers (15-17-0-3) at 8 p.m. The last home game before the playoffs is Sunday versus the Wetaskiwin Icemen (15-17-0-4) at 8 p.m.