The Woodstock Navy Vets defeated the Norwich Merchants 5-4

By Greg Colgan, Sentinel-Review


The Woodstock Navy Vets entered their game against the Norwich Merchants with nine games remaining in the regular season.

As the third ranked team in the Provincial Junior Hockey League’s Doherty Division and six points out of first, every two points the rest of the month are vital if they hope to jockey their way up the standings.

The Tavistock Braves have been planted in first for much of the year and the two time defending Schmalz Cup champion Ayr Centennials in second, giving the Vets an uphill battle. Woodstock’s now on a four-game winning streak following their 5-4 win against the Merchants at Southwood arena.

“Every night is so crucial. We can’t afford a bad game because the points are so important,” Vets head coach Matt Paton said after the win. “We asked the guys, what do we want to do our last 10 games? Roll into the postseason and be content or give ourselves the best position in the playoffs? They’ve worked hard all season to get to this point.

“We always say we’ve got a special group, a good group of kids and I think if we believe going down the home stretch we’ll have a good spot come playoffs,” he added.

The win pushes them closer to both Ayr and Tavistock, who play Wednesday night, but they’ll also have their chances in the coming weeks as they’ll meet the Braves twice and Centennials once more. They now sit four points behind Tavistock and three below Ayr.

Though it’s easy to look ahead, Paton said they’ve focused on the game in front of them.

“We take one game at a time and one period at a time. Now that we’ve got Tavistock Friday, we’re looking forward to playing them. They’re a good team and they’ve done a great job there,” he said. “They work for 60 minutes and we do the same. Every single night is so important in this league since the team’s were chasing keep winning.”

Woodstock opened the scoring 33 seconds into the game when Kyle Walker beat Merchants goalie Brandon McIntosh. The Vets held the lead until with 1:20 a rebound found Norwich’s Dan Gallagher to the left of the net and he hit the back of the net. Jeremy Bomberry made it 2-1 18 seconds later when he slipped behind the Vets defence to go in alone.

Matt Caskanette made it 3-1 at 5:22 of the second after he let go a shot from the point, but Lucas Psenicka cut the lead to one when he knocked in a loose puck at the side of the net after the Navy Vets hemmed the Merchants in their own zone for close to a minute. Walker tied the game at 18:20 when he took a pass at the side of the Merchants net. Norwich regained the lead with 59 seconds left in the period when Gallagher buried a wrist shot from the face-off circle on the power play.

Justin Elms tied the game on the power play at 7:54 of the third with a wrist shot from the left point. Walker picked up the game winner and his second hat trick off the season after taking a pass from Matt Zilke with 4:58 remaining while skating towards the Merchants net.

Paton said it was one of the team’s strongest games this season, which saw them come from behind, lead the game in shots and have every player contribute in some way.

“We’ve been working towards a 60 minute game all year and that’s what we did. We faced a bit of adversity (falling behind 3-1), but we kept going and every guy had a part in that win,” Paton said of the team’s effort against Norwich. “We came to play no questions asked. There were a few bad breaks, but they worked hard and the guys have really come together… I was really proud of the effort.”


Woodstock Navy Vets 5

Norwich Merchants 4

Woodstock goals: Kyle Walker (3), Lucas Psenicka and Justin Elms

Norwich goals: Dan Gallagher (2), Jeremy Bomberry and Matt Caskanette

Next: The Woodstock Navy Vets visit the Tavistock Braves Friday at 7:30 p.m., while the Merchants visit the New Hamburg Firebirds Friday. The Doherty Division will have its annual Prospects and All-Star Game Saturday at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. in Norwich.