Merchants fall to Vets, beat Firebirds
The Norwich Merchants closed out 2017 taking three out of a possible six points in the final games and looked to start off 2018 on the right track with a pair of road games.
On Tuesday, Jan. 2, the final Battle of 59 for the season took place between the Merchants and Woodstock Navy Vets in the friendly city. 2018 didn't start well for Norwich as the Vets poked home a goal a mere 33 seconds into the contest. Dan Gallagher tied the game with a 1:20 to go with a power play marker. Jeremy Bomberry stunned the Vets 18 seconds later when he buried a breakaway goal.
Matt Caskanette wired home his fourth goal of the season 5:22 into the second period before the Vets clawed one back 2:08 later and knotted the game up at three with :40 left in the second period.
Gallagher would answer back 41 seconds later to give Norwch a one goal lead after 40 minutes.
Norwich's first penalty of the game proved costly in the third period when the Vets scored at the 7:54 mark. The game remained tied until Woodstock batted a puck out of mid-air with 4:58 left to lead 5-4. Norwich continued to press for an equalizer, but couldn't muster one up falling 5-4 to their country rivals. Harlen Vanwynsberghe, Ryan Dayman, Matt Larochelle, Blake Pow and Simon Storoschuk had assists for the Merchants while Brandon McIntosh made 36 saves in the loss.
On Friday night, Jan. 5, the team visited the New Hamburg Firebirds in a key match-up. Heading into the game, Norwich sat only two points above New Hamburg in the standings, making this match-up important. For the second game in a row, Norwich found themselves playing comeback when the Firebirds opened the scoring 10:58 into the game. Pow would equalize 1:01 later thanks to his team-leading 28th goal of the season. Gallagher gave Norwich the lead with four minutes left. Riley Monture whistled home a short-handed goal 5:15 into the second period and the Merchants weren't done there. Vanwynsberghe and Dayman scored goals in a 52 second span to give Norwich a commanding 5-1 lead after 40 minutes. Troy Lamoure would score his third of the season late in the third period as Norwich won convincingly 6-1 to move four points ahead of the Firebirds in the standings.
A 2-0 win by New Hamburg over Delhi on Sunday afternoon restored Norwich's lead to two points. Gallagher (3), Pow (2), Damon Lemmon, Vanywynsberghe (2) and Lamoure had the assists for Norwich while Tyler Gubesch was impressive stopping 32 of 33 shots faced.
On Saturday, Jan. 6, Norwich hosted the PJHL Doherty Division All-Star and Prospects Games. The All-Stars hit the ice first featuring Troy Lamoure, Riley Monture, Simon Storoschuk and Blake Pow. Storoschuk, Pow and Monture each registered an assist in their team's 8-5 win. The Prospects hit the ice in the evening featuring Brandon Odorjan, Seth Lamoure, Sam Davies, Alex Sutherland and goaltender Brandon McIntosh. Odorjan lead the way for his team with two goals while Davies added one assist. McIntosh stopped 17 of 19 shots in his team's 7-6 win as he picked up the victory. The Merchants organization wish to thank the many sponsors of the days events along with Doherty Division convenor Wayne Smith, division statistician Jim Taylor and their rivals teams from the division.
Norwich returns to league action on Friday night in another key match-up against the New Hamburg Firebirds. Norwich lead the Firebirds by two points in the standings. Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. at the Nor-Del Arena. On Saturday, Norwich visit the Burford Bulldogs for a 7:30 p.m. game.
Tickets are now available for the Merchant's Spring Fish Fry expected to be held on the arena floor. The event features an all you can eat perch AND pickerel dinner followed by a dance with DJ Brian Grosvold. The event will also see a live auction featuring the team's third jerseys worn on alumni nights this past season. A silent auction is also expected to take place. Tickets are available from all Merchant executive members or by calling/texting 519-532-6704.