The Paris Mounties are gearing up to face off against the Norwich Merchants in a best-of-seven series in the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) divisional quarter-finals.
Todd Wood, the club’s president and general manager, said despite losing all seven matchups against the Merchants in the regular season, the Mounties are ready for a clean slate in their first playoff series back in the league.
“After playing them so much during the season, we have a good idea of what to expect,” he said. “Playoffs are always different. You gotta win four of seven and if a goalie gets hot or something crazy happens, you can find yourself down three out there real fast and not know what happened. So it’s really like a new season.”
The Mounties went 5-32-2-2 in 41 games this season and found themselves sixth in the South Doherty division, trailed by only the Hespeler Shamrocks.
“The learning curve was a little bit longer than we thought it was going to be this season,” Wood said. “We had 19 rookies on the team at the start so while it may not show in the standings, I consider the season a success from what it could have been and where it started. The guys have come a long way and I’m very proud of the effort they put in and the time they put in. I’m excited for the next couple of weeks to see if they can take the next step.”
Wood explained that because the team has such a young core, they have been taking extra time to prepare their players for the upcoming series.
“Even though they’re young, you have to draw on their experience because they’ve all played some form of playoff hockey in their careers,” he said. “We’ve had some good discussions with them on what it is going to take to be successful. This is playoffs, you have to raise your game and your compete level, and you have to be committed to the other 21 guys in the room. You have to be willing to do anything to win and that’s what it takes. The PJHL playoffs are some of the longest playoffs in Ontario, so you have to be all in. It’s going to take all 22 guys to pull off any upsets, and anything we do will be an upset, so everybody’s gonna have to pull the rope and be part of the team.”
The Norwich Merchants finished their regular season with a 29-12-1-0 record. Their 59 points in 42 games landed them in the division’s third spot, behind the New Hamburg Firebirds and Wellesley Applejacks.
In addition to the number of games played against each other this season, the two teams have some history with two of the Merchants’ veteran players, Kyle Brezinski and Tanner Mitton, having started their PJHL careers as Paris Mounties. The pair signed with the Merchants for the 2021-22 season when the Mounties stepped away from the league.
“Being able to play a team with former Mounties definitely makes it a lot more fun,” Wood said. “They’re both great kids and they were great players for Paris. Knowing that they’re at the other end of the ice definitely raises the stakes a bit for us.”
The series kicks off Friday, March 10 in Norwich, with the Mounties’ first home game on Saturday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Brant Sports Complex. Wood called on the community to bring the energy to the rink to support the team.
“Come ready to cheer loud and get behind the boys and help get them fired up and get them going,” he said. “There’s nothing better than playoff hockey and if the fans can up their intensity, it will help the guys on the ice here in Paris. We just need the fans to come out and be loud and get rowdy and let’s get this thing going.”