Sports

Merchants close out regular season and prepare to face New Hamburg Firebirds in playoffs

By Colin Percy

The Norwich Merchants closed out the regular season this past weekend and now prepare for the first round of the playoffs and they'll be taking on a familiar foe – the New Hamburg Firebirds.

This will be the third consecutive year these two teams have met in the playoffs.

Before Norwich gets to that point, they had to wrap up the regular season. On Friday, Jan. 27, the team held its home finale against the Delhi Travellers. Prior to the game, the team held a Wall of Fame induction ceremony for Dwayne Devos who played three seasons in Norwich.

The Merchants peppered the goal with shots right from the get-go, but couldn't muster a goal until the 16:31 mark when Jordan Gillis wired in his 18th goal of the season. Jon Damm slipped in his fifth goal of the year 49 seconds later and Blake Pow made it 3-0 1:50 after that to send Norwich to the dressing room on a high note.

Gillis continued lighting the lamp for Norwich when he buried his second of the game 6:02 into the middle frame. Pow, Brett Parsons and Ray Munro would all tally goals in the second period to give Norwich a 7-0 lead after 40 minutes. Thomas Hogg fired in his first goal as a Merchant 5:35 into the third period to closer out Norwich's offense on the night. Delhi would ruin the shutout late in the game, but the buzzer roared with the scoreboard reading 8-1 in favour of Norwich. John Foreman (2), Parsons (4), Dylan Smart, Matt Larochelle (4), Oliver Wieringa, Brandon Velda and Ryan Dayman had the assists while Parick Tanner made 24 saves to pick up his first career junior win.

Norwich wrapped up the regular season in New Hamburg on Saturday, Jan. 28 in a game that had huge implications on who would get home ice advantage in round one.

The teams were on a course to have identical records which would eliminate a tie-breaker of most wins. The second tie-breaker is head-to-head record against each other and the teams were 2-2 heading into the Jan. 28 game.

New Hamburg opened the scoring by poking in a shorthanded goal 4:16 into the game. Gillis tied things up 46 seconds later with his 20th of the season. Daniel Rizzo gave Norwich the lead 1:53 later, but the Firebirds tied things up with 3:36 left in the first period. New Hamburg would tally one more before the period ended, sending Norwich to the dressing room trailing by one.

The teams would trade powerplay chances in the second and Norwich's John Foreman was even awarded a penalty shot, but no team mustered up a goal in the period where New Hamburg outshout Norwich 21-12. The third period was similar to the second, as despite immense pressure from Norwich, no team would score in the final period handing New Hamburg a 3-2 win. Pow and Foreman (2) had Norwich's assists while Tyler Gubesch made 31 saves in the loss. New Hamburg's 8-0 win over Delhi on Jan. 29 would hand New Hamburg fourth place in the standings and home ice advantage in round one against Norwich.

The first game of the series will take place on Friday night, Feb. 3 in New Hamburg at 7:30 p.m. with Game 2 taking place in Norwich on Saturday night, Feb. 4. The series is expected to be evenly matched with both teams ending the year with identical 22-18 records. New Hamburg won the season series 3-2 outscoring Norwich 23-19 in the 5 games.

Norwich will need to capitalize better on powerplay opportunities than they did against New Hamburg in the regular season. Norwich only went two for 26 on the powerplay. New Hamburg was four for 24 with the man advantage against Norwich.

The Merchants will hope Pow can continue tallying up the points against New Hamburg. He lead both teams with eight points (one goal and seven assists) in games between the clubs. Jordan Gillis, Derek Slaght and Troy Lamoure each had five points. Norwich will need to contain Walker Davison who had seven points (four goals and three assists) against Norwich this year. Dalton Smith had six points. Norwich will also rely on starting goaltender Tyler Gubesch who will face off against Michael Black and Tanner Topham for New Hamburg. The other playoffs series in the Doherty Division will feature Ayr versus Burford, Paris verse Tavistock and Wellesley versus Woodstock.

OVERTIME

Tickets are now available for the Norwich Merchants' Spring Fish Fry. The event takes place on Saturday, April 15 in the auditorium of the Norwich Community Centre and features an all you can eat perch and pickerel dinner with all the fixings followed by a dance. There will also be a live and silent auction at the event. Tickets are only $30/person and are available from all Merchant executive members or by calling/texting 519-532-6704.