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Merch Madness begins

After a first-round sweep against Stony Plain, the St. Albert Merchants have secured a semi final berth in the Capital Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Members of the St. Albert Junior B Merchants celebrate a victory in the Capital Junior Hockey League. SUPPLIED/David Tyrrell

Following a 2-1 nail-biter win against the Stony Plain Flyers, the St. Albert Junior B Merchants have won their quarter final round in the Capital Junior Hockey League’s postseason.

Though the Merch went down a goal early on, they clawed their way back into the game with unanswered third period goals by Hayden Carlson and Stuart Dovey

The victory is the team’s third in a row against the Flyers — the Merch also having won back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.

This year’s Merchants are no strangers to success. In the regular season, the group won 31 of 38 regular season games to finish the year atop the West Division’s standings with a league-leading 65 points.

Much of that success can be attributed to the explosive offense of assistant captain and former St. Albert Flyer Dylan McFatridge. With 30 goals and 43 assists on the year, McFatridge finished sixth in league scoring.

As the playoffs progress, McFatridge says the group is hoping to build on the moment developed throughout the fall and winter months.

“We understood that having a great regular season would be a building block towards what we really wanted to accomplish moving into playoffs,” reflected McFatridge. “Setting a different standard for a strong culture in our room was the biggest thing for our group.”

That commitment to keeping a foot on the gas pedal is echoed by Head Coach Niall O’Donoghue.

“The players hold themselves to a pretty high standard, not just in games but in practice as well,” said O’Donoghue, praising his squad for their focus and maturity.

“We have an amazing leadership group on the team. I can’t say enough about the culture they’ve developed in the room.”

Looking forward, there’s a belief in the Merchants’ locker room that the team has what it takes to come out on top in the CJHL, in provincials, and ultimately, in the battle for the Keystone Cup, Western Canada’s premier Junior B tournament.

“I think every team in the playoffs is focused on winning the league championship and going to provincials,” said O’Donoghue. “I think we have as good a chance as any of the teams that are left, but we’ve got a lot or work ahead of us if we want to get to that goal.”

“We know this team has the pieces to build the puzzle, but we will continue to take each game and series one at a time,” added McFatridge. “If we continue to put in the work like we have all season, the success will follow us.”

The Merchants will now face off in the semis against the North Edmonton Red Wings, who swept the Morinville Jets in the quarter finals. Stats and a comprehensive playoff schedule can be found on the CJHL’s website.

As a community team, the Merchants survive on local sponsorships. Those interested in supporting the organization are highly encouraged to reach out to its management.

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