The St. Albert Merchants junior B hockey team saw their five-game winning streak screech to a halt on the weekend.
They faced off against the Leduc Co-Op Riggers on Friday in a barn-burner that saw some wild momentum swings.
The first period saw no scoring, but the Merchants opened up a 3-0 lead in the second period with goals from Cole Gupta, Adam Ray, and Keigan Miller. The lead was commanding, but still wasn't enough for the Merchants to get the win. The Riggers got on the board to make it 3-1 late in the second with a marker from Hunter Komishki.
The third period was where most of the action took place. Leduc’s Robert Young cut the Merchants' lead to 3-2 less than a minute into the frame. The Merchants then got into some penalty trouble as the Riggers got a pair of power-play goals to pull ahead 4-3 with just over 10 minutes to go in the game.
St. Albert tied up the game with a goal by Nico Gallo, but the Riggers responded with yet another power-play goal by Komishki to take the game by a final score of 5-4.
Despite the blown lead, Merchants head coach Niall O’Donoghue thought his team played well.
“Honestly, we played a good game,” said O’Donoghue. “We probably missed four or five tap-ins on empty nets ... it was just one of those games.”
Next up on the schedule was a date with the Edmonton Royals. This time it would be Edmonton who would get an early 2-0 lead. The Merchants battled back with a couple of goals of their own from Owen Bourque and Brett Reiter to end the opening frame at 2-2.
The second period saw St. Albert get the only two goals, as Bourque added his second on the night while David Saunders picked up one to put the Merchants up 4-2 headed into the third period.
Holding a lead was a challenge for the Merchants over the weekend as the Royals responded with a pair of goals to tie things up at 4-4 to force overtime. The extra time didn't solve anything, but the Royals eventually came out victorious in the shootout. The Merchants picked up the point in the loss but failed to hold on for the win.
O’Donoghue said the Merchants might have been dwelling a bit too much on their previous game against the Riggers.
“Three-one is the worst lead in hockey and when you go into the third period and blow that, it’s going to be on your mind the next night,” said O’Donoghue. “You could see in the third period, with another two-goal lead, it was in the back of the kids’ minds.
“We still played very well, we had more than a few chances to finish that game ... even in overtime. We just did not get it done.”
The Merchants are still in a good position with a 15-7-2 record and 32 points on the season. That is enough for a tie for third place in the West Division of the Capital Junior Hockey League (CJHL) with the Stony Plain Flyers and just a point behind the second-place Edmonton Red Wings.
They will look to get back into their winning ways with a date with the Flyers on Wednesday in Stony Plain. The Merchants will then return for a two-game home-stand against the Morinville Jets and Wetaskiwin Icemen on Friday and Sunday.
The game-plan remains simple for the Merchants.
“[The Flyer and Jets] have some good firepower up front, so those teams we have to focus on making sure we do our best to shut down their top two or three guys,” said O’Donoghue. “As long as we stick to the game we are trying to play we should be successful.”