A loss Friday to the North Edmonton Red Wings has the St. Albert Merchants on a four-game slide and second last in the west division of the Capital Junior B Hockey League.
If you include Sunday night’s default to the Spruce Grove Regals, make it five losses in a row. Head coach Adam Sharpe said they tried to get the game postponed but the league did not allow it. When asked why St. Albert couldn’t play the game Sunday in Spruce Grove, Sharpe said he couldn’t provide that information.
On Friday, the Merchants (7-15-0-2) held their own much of the way against the Wings (17-6-0-1) at Akinsdale Arena. The game was 2-2 heading into the third period until a melee ensued after goaltender Steve Hancock got a stick high on Money Men captain Ben Mahon.
“These things happen. You have to respond to the situations sometimes. We ended up with a lot of guys out after that. It was pretty much a line brawl so we were down to 10 guys. Players get tired,” Sharpe said. “It was a good game until the third period.”
Brett Forsythe and Tyler Porteous scored for St. Albert. Curtis Ronaldson was manning the crease.
St. Albert faces Wetaskiwin (2-20-0-1) Friday at Akinsdale. The team’s home record is 1-10-0-1. The last time the clubs met in mid-October, former Merchants player Kevin Pollard was the overtime hero on the road.
“It was a tough game with them last time. You can’t take anybody lightly. You just don’t know what’s going to happen, how your team is going to play or how they’ll play,” Sharpe said. “I would expect they’re hungry and I’d hope so are we. I would think Wetaskiwin is looking to play pretty hard but we should beat them. It shouldn’t be an issue. If we come to play we can probably put a beating on them.”
At 8 p.m. Sunday at Clareview Arena the Merchants will get another crack at the Red Wings and resume a long-standing rivalry. Sharpe looks forward to the tilt and he expects his players to use the high emotions as a catalyst to get even on the scoresheet, not with the fists.
“Nothing wrong with the rivalry. After that game, you know it’s part of it and making sure everyone’s taking care of each other. These guys will do that. It would be nice to get the two points out of it when it happens too,” Sharpe said. “I would anticipate the same thing. We were right there with them. Five on five and with a full bench I think we’re pretty solid against them. We didn’t find ourselves in a lot of trouble.”
Sharpe says he’ll be looking to play a sound defensive game but try and get the lead early so the bench can play a bit more relaxed. From there, it’s all about driving to the net and causing chaos.
“We have to produce more shots and get more pucks to the net with traffic and bury a few more. If we could get out to a lead I think it would change the momentum and the way that we play,” he said. “It’s always tougher playing from behind and a bit of a drain emotionally, but if we can get out to a lead and get some bounces right away it will change the complexion.”
Meanwhile, goalie Kennedy Brooks has been released. Brooks battled the flu for much of November, paving the way for Ronaldson to take advantage of an opportunity after he rejoined the team following a stint as the backup on the St. Albert Steel. Sharpe felt that Ronaldson simply played himself into the spot.
“Unfortunately Kennedy was sick there. We didn’t get to play him much and Ronaldson settled in well and got better as the days went on. It was a tough call but you have to go with the guys who are showing and are physically here to play.”