Welcome to Merch Madness, 2017 Edition

Welcome to the Madness.

It’s that time of year again. The time where I pay homage to the local Junior B club of St. Vegas. The time where residents from Oakmont to Kingswood, from Erin Ridge to Deer Ridge, from Lacombe to Mission, and from Heritage Lakes to the unfinished Jensen Lakes all make their way to the Brick Jungle on Herbert and rock the roof off the joint. Tonight, it’s that time. Making their way eastward down the Yellowhead and Tony Henday towards our great city is none other than last year’s first round casualty, the Stony Plain Flyers: suburb of Spruce Grove. It’s rare that you see two teams have a preliminary rematch in the usually diverse CJHL, but here we are. Last year’s first round was an absolute nail-biter that literally came down to the last goal, but it was Cam Mazur who sealed the Merchants victory in double overtime, sending the boys to the second round, and sending St. Albert into an absolute frenzy. It was truly one of those times to be alive.

ENS was built on the foundation of the St. Albert Merchants. For real. I personally never came close to playing for these guys, because I quit about three years before my first year of eligibility, and because I was terrible. But the rest of the company was quite figuratively born inside that Brick Jungle. Three years ago, I stole their former bench warmer, Teeps, and former DJ, Hank, and started a goddamn website. We bleed blue and yellow at this (dot)com. In fact, I inadvertently started this monster a casual four years ago with one, simple tweet:

Still called the Brick Jungle “Akins”, that’s how long ago. We were so young, so naive. Little did I know what kind of a mid-February tradition I was about to start.

The Blue Guys finished the year with a record of 18-16-4, which put them in 4th in the CJHL’s West Division. Once again, it was Matt Havens leading the charge. Matty Ice has quickly developed into a CJHL highlight reel. In 38 games, he buried 25 goals to go along with his 59 points. He’ll be playing on a line with two other CJHL vets, Brenden Passek and last year’s hero, Cam Mazur. Everybody’s favourite role player, Tommy Rotundo, is back from injury just in time for the postseason. A much needed locker room boost for the fellas.

That’s not where he got injured, that’s just Tommy falling into the boards. Classic Tom. Always trust a man who knows what to rock at the Concrete Jungle during it’s series finale:

And where to go to get a little effort put into your fast food:

That’s the type of leader I want. Why get chicken or beef when you can get chicken and beef? Tommy gets it. Merch in 2.

Now allow me to introduce you all to Ryan Cooper. If you haven’t heard the name before, pay attention. This dude’s an underage and still finished second on the team in scoring, registering 44 points in 37 games.

Ya. Howbow dah. By all accounts an absolute lock to win CJHL rookie of the year.

Jake Mercier finished third in team scoring with 35 in 31. Good kid. Banned from Spruce Grove for life.

Still probably the most empty, hysterical threat I’ve ever seen. Don’t just go around telling kids to stay away from Spruce Grove, we already do that anyways. Call us when you get paved roads.

The blue line has probably gone through the most drastic change since last year. Hall of fame puck movers like Danny Rombough and Jared Kwasney have sadly moved on.

So instead, the Merch moved into more of a traditional, shutdown blue line. Leading the way, of course, are two of the league’s biggest minute eaters: Michael Bruni and Danny Spatafora. Like Larsson and Klefbom patrolling the point. Helping them out has been the addition of another strong rookie, Evan Haimila. Their public enemy number one will be Wyatt Williams this series. Guy had 42 in 35 this year. Whatever.

I’m being told that Ryan Papirny will be in the pipes tonight. Paps played just a bit more than newbie Ethan Crotty this season. Both had some big shoes to fill after the big dog—Paps’ mentor—Ty Clelland, finally hung up the skates. That guy, man. Always did whatever it took for the boys. Here’s him and last year’s el capitan Danny Rombough both launching themselves at the puck to ensure it wouldn’t go in:

Can’t teach that leadership.

Now for the series at hand. Guys, this is Stony we’re talking about here. The same Flyers we soared passed in last year’s first round. Now I’m not going to lie, this season was not kind to the Flyers/Merchants rivalry. We went 1-2-1 against Stony this year, and haven’t beat them since October 23rd. All that means is we’re due. Regular season is in the past. We’re in postseason territory now, boys. And this is where we’ve historically owned that ‘town’ of 15,000. Nobody does CJHL playoffs like St. Albert does CJHL playoffs. Albert Lacombe settled on this section of the mighty Sturg for two reasons: It was better for agriculture, and to beat Stony Plain in the first round. And the latter is exactly what we’re about to do in the next 72 hours.

Here’s how the series plays out:

*not necessary. Also, will somebody at the CJHL headquarters get on the website and spell ‘Akinsdale’ properly, please and thanks. Blatant disrespect.

Obligatory reminder, assuming he’s still patrolling the fan section like he’s been the last two years:

And rumour has it there’ll be a bus transporting the real degenerates from the Brick Jungle to Knoxvilles right after the game. What a marketing move. I might be a little too old for that kind of shenanigans these days, but I tell ya if it’s anything like the past you won’t want to miss it. Always had a good time punishing lagers with the fellas.

My prediction? Easy. Merch obviously in 2, winning 4-2 at home tonight, then 4-3 in Stony on Sunday. Matty Ice leads the series with 5 points in two games. Tommy Rotundo gets three points because if I don’t say he will and he does then I’ll never hear the end of it. Same with Passek. I gotchu, man.

Now here’s the video from three years ago that legit never gets old. Let’s pack that barn tonight, St. Vegas. It’s Merch Madness season. Here we go!

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