Young Merchant hopefuls don the red and white alongside veterans in early season games
The Norwich Merchants have been hard at work preparing for the 50th season which kicks of Sept. 16 against Woodstock. Returning coach Dave Smith got his first look at the Merchants during training camp and the coinciding pre-season schedule which kicked off on Aug. 19 in Aylmer.
A group of young Merchant hopefuls donned the red and white alongside a few veterans. The Spitfires opened the scoring 7:50 into the first with a powerplay marker and doubled that 2:21 into the second. Samuel Davies got Norwich on the board with 10:55 left on the second period clock. Aylmer restored their two-goal lead 4:32 later, but once again the Merchants answered back thanks to the stick of defensman Troy Lamoure.
The Spitfires would find the back of the net once more in the middle frame to take a 4-2 after 40 minutes. Aylmer would put the game to bed in the third, period burying the puck twice to take the win 6-2. Ryan Dayman assisted on both Norwich goals with Nathan Innes and Jesse Dunn also making their mark in the assist column. Carter De Jong and Sheldon Thompson combined for 18 saves in the loss.
Aylmer would make their way to Norwich for a tilt on Aug. 25 and the scoreline would be much different this time around.
Thomas Hogg opened the scoring midway through the first period. Brandon Velda made it 2-0 with 6:13 left in the opening period. Mason Cooper and Riley Monture would score in a 35-second span to give Norwich commanding four-goal lead after 20 minutes.
Norwich wasn't done there as Seth Lamoure wired home a shot 8:43 into the second while Monture sniped home his second of the night with 6:08 left. Damon Lemmon made it 7-0 early in the third period while Dayman slipped home a short-handed marker for the game's final goal as Norwich took the shutout win 8-0. Cooper (3), Velda (2), Blake Pow, Simon Storoschuk (2), Dayman and Seth Lamoure recorded assists while Brandon McIntosh made 13 saves with Tyler Gubesch stopping seven pucks in the combined shutout win.
On Sunday afternoon, Aug. 27, Norwich hosted their divisional rivals from New Hamburg. This matchup was the first time the clubs have met since Game 5 of the Doherty Division Quarterfinals where Norwich knocked the Firebirds out of the playoffs.
New Hamburg got early revenge on their playoff exit as they scored on the first shot of the game. The Firebirds made it 2-0 with 4:57 in the period and took a three-goal advantage 38 seconds into the second period. Troy Lamoure wired home his second of the pre-season midway through the middle frame, but the Firebirds quickly responded, restoring their two-goal lead three minutes later. Cooper continued the trend of goals coming within the first minute of the period when he poked home a goal 31 seconds into the third.
Norwich continued to push, but the game was put to bed with just over two minutes left on the clock when the Firebirds tallied their fourth of the game. New Hamburg would add an empty-netter to clinch the 5-2 victory. Seth Lamoure, Brett Parsons and Pow each tallied one assist while Gubesch made 11 saves, and McIntosh and Carter DeJong each stopping seven shots in the loss.
Norwich was scheduled to make the return visit to New Hamburg Aug. 31. They will close out their pre-season schedule with a home-and-home set against the Hagersville Hawks of the Bloomfield division. Norwich host the Hawks on Friday, Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. before traveling to Hagersville on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m.
These pre-season games all lead into the team's Home Opener on Saturday, Sept. 16. Norwich will be opening their 50th season against their Highway 59 rivals – the Woodstock Navy Vets. To celebrate 50 years, the team will be holding a Fan Fest prior to the game. Beginning at 4 p.m., the parking lot of the Nor-Del Arena will be transformed into a park atmosphere. Their will be a kids' zone featuring games, a hot air balloon, cotton candy, popcorn and inflatables alongside a licensed beer garden. Following the game, Crown the Lion and the James Cameron Band will rock an outdoor stage. Kids are free for the activities and the hockey game itself. Further details can be found at www.norwichjrcmerchants.com
The Norwich Merchants are currently selling their 110 club passes. For only $110, an individual will received admission into their final pre-season tilt on Sept. 8 against Hagersville, along with all 20 regular season home games and both the fall and spring fish frys, with the latter fry returning to the arena floor to culminate the team's 50th season celebrations. Contact any Merchant executive member or come out to any home game to purchase your 110 club passes.