The St. Albert Merchants junior B hockey team split their games against the North Edmonton Red Wings and the Strathcona Bruins on the weekend.
The win and loss saw the Merchants' record move to 4-1-1 on the season. They currently sit second in the west division of the Capital Junior Hockey League with nine points, one behind the first-place Beverly Warriors.
They opened up on Friday with a game against the Red Wings at Jarome Iginla Arena. It was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams as the Red Wings took the lead at the midway mark of the first period. Stuart Dovey got the Merchants on the board in the last minute of the period to tie things up at 1-1.
The Red Wings got the second period’s only goal to bring a 2-1 lead into the final frame. The Merchants made a play in the third with two early goals to take their first lead of the game at 3-2. It wouldn’t be enough as the Red Wings tied things up once again to force overtime.
In the overtime period, the Red Wings completed the comeback on a goal from Dylan Flynn. The Merchants dropped this one by a score of 4-3.
Their chance at redemption came in the form of an away game against the Strathcona Bruins at the Strathcona Olympiette Centre on Sunday. Luck would favor the Merchants early on as they were awarded a penalty shot. Brett Reiter went in all alone and scored to give the Merchants a 1-0 lead.
In the second period, the floodgates opened up as the Merchants rattled off three goals in quick succession. Owen Bourque notched two of them, while Jayden Antunes added another to give the Merchants a demanding 4-0 lead heading into the third period.
The Bruins pushed but it wasn't enough as the Merchants cruised to a 4-0 victory with goaltender Cole Crozier picking up the shutout.
Head coach Niall O’Donoghue said he wasn’t impressed with the loss on Friday but the win on Sunday showed they were able to learn from their mistakes.
“The boys knew what they had to,” said O’Donoghue. “On Friday night we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and then [on Sunday] the boys came in with a chip on their shoulder … they knew what they had to do and did it.
“We played a great 60 minutes, which I think is the first full 60 minutes we put in all year.”
The goaltending was a huge part of the victory. Crozier worked hard between the pipes for the Merchants, making a few grade-A saves to ensure the shutout. O’Donoghue has coached Crozier for four years now and said he isn’t surprised to see him play this well.
“This is Cole’s fourth year playing for me, so I know what to expect from him,” said O’Donoghue. “I’m not surprised that he can go out and do something like that, sometimes that is just par for the course for him.
“It was good to see, good for him to get the [shutout].”
Crozier said it felt good to rebound with a win after a tough loss.
“It feels good. The boys were ready to go, and I think we’re looking really good this year,” said Crozier. “You never want to expect [a shutout] because you never know what’s going to happen, but I feel confident with the defense we have out there, they’re definitely looking good.”
The Merchants are back in action this week as they host the Edmonton Royals at Jarome Iginla Arena this Friday. They have a game on Sunday in Wetaskiwin against the Icemen.