Special to The Standard
Playoff hockey is coming back to Little Britain this weekend, with the Merchants likely to square off against the Clarington Eagles, in the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) Orr Division quarterfinals.
As of press time, Little Britain’s quarterfinal opponent was not made official, but several sources indicated to The Standard that both first-place Lakefield and second-place Port Perry would opt for a quarterfinal bye, leaving third-place Clarington to square off against the Merchants, the sixth-place finishers in the regular season standings.
This past weekend, Little Britain closed out the campaign with a 1-1 tie against Uxbridge, followed by a hard-fought 6-3 loss to Port Perry.
The Merchants opened the final weekend of the regular season, on home ice with the rival Uxbridge Bruins in town, for a Saturday night match-up.
The teams traded scoring chances throughout the opening period, but neither was able to find the back of the net. A 20 minute delay occurred, with just 11 seconds remaining in the first period, as arena staff worked to replace a broken pane of glass.
The longer layoff did little to dampen the enthusiasm on both sides, as they resumed a brisk back-and-forth pace to start the second period.
With just over six minutes remaining in the second, Uxbridge scored to take a 1-0 advantage into the third period.
However, just 30 seconds into the third period, Aidan Renouf cashed in with a powerplay goal, assisted by Billy Finney, to even the score. But, that would round out the scoring, as both sides traded remarkable chances, throughout the third period and into overtime. However, they could not solve the sensational saves made by Uxbridge’s Jake Joosten and Little Britain’s Adam Harris.
The next day saw the Merchants back in action, in Port Perry for a matinee match-up against the MoJacks.
Late in the first period, a power play goal by Jesse Craig tied the game 1-1, to open the scoring for Little Britain. After an early goal by the MoJacks in the second, restored an advantage for the home side, the Merchants rang up a pair of goals, just 18 seconds apart, less than a minute after the MoJacks had scored. Michael Cox finished off excellent passing, between Jordan Sharpe and Hayden Long, before Ryan Shaw pushed the Merchants into a 3-2 lead, with assists credited to Mark Harris and Craig.
The lead would not last however, as the MoJacks stormed back with a pair of goals later in the middle stanza and another in the third period, to double up the Merchants by a final score of 6-3.
Following the game, Merchants head coach Geoff Field told The Standard he expects his team to be tough to play against in the postseason.
“Through the regular season you play each other enough to get a really good sense of every team’s strength and weakness. We’re going to take what we know and combine it with a focus on our special teams,” explained Field. “With a full committed team, playing with confidence and working hard on defence, to go with a balanced offence, I think that we will be able to compete with any team in the division. This loop has always been really balanced and evenly matched come playoff time, and I think you will see that continue this year.”