*record as of February 17th, 2017
It was a tough scene to bear witness to Wednesday night at the Sherwood Park Arena as the Crusaders dropped an ugly game to the Whitecourt Wolverines 8-3.
The Crusaders found themselves dominated in pretty much every facet of the game, which left the team looking more for answers than excuses.
“Obviously, we were very disappointed in the loss. It comes back to the same things time and time again. Our group is running out of time to figure it out before the playoffs begin, but it's simply a lack of compete, battle, playing physical, and pushing back against the bigger heavier teams.” Says a frustrated Crusader Head Coach in Adam Manah.
Sherwood Park, along with the rest of the teams in the league, are in their final 10 Games or less in the Regular Season. Results like Wednesday shouldn’t occur to a team that considers itself a contender in the Viterra North Division.
“The most frustrating thing about Wednesday’s loss was the lack of compete, and discipline.” Added Manah.
If there was one small victory from Wednesday’s Game, it was that the Crusaders were able to hold the Wolverines to one Power Play Goal on seven opportunities. But seven Power Plays handed to you opponent completely disrupts your chemistry and flow, to which the Crusaders barely had any Wednesday night, and that must change heading into a busy weekend and beyond.
Family Day long weekend kicks off for the Crusaders Friday night, as they welcome their final Viterra South Division team to the Sherwood Park Arena in the Camrose Kodiaks.
The closest South Division team to Sherwood Park sits in fifth place, like the Crusaders, in their respective Division but are in quite the battle with three other teams for second place. Camrose would ideally like to finish in second or third place in the South, to avoid a potential second round matchup against the Brooks Bandits.
The Kodiaks are 7-3-0 in their last 10.
“Camrose has a deep Forward core that'll make you defend, and can put the puck in the net. It was pretty evident the last time we played them. Every time we made a mistake they seemed to score on it so we'll have to be conscious of that, and again they compete very hard on pucks. We'll be challenged in that area once again.” Said Manah on his team’s Friday opponent.
Fans might be eager that the second meeting between these two teams will be like the first meeting back on November 4th in Camrose, where the Crusaders won a barn burner 9-7.
Certainly both Adam Manah and Kodiaks GM & Head Coach Boris Rybalka won’t want that type of game.
“To avoid a repeat of our last meeting we need to limit turnovers in the Neutral Zone, manage pucks well in the Offensive Zone, and to be disciplined to not allow their Special Teams to go to work.” Noted Manah.
Some Crusader players surely will want a repeat of certain things from the November 4th shootout. Forward Tanner Younghans had a Hat Trick that included the Game Winning Goal against his former team, Tyler Maltby had a career night in terms of Assists with four and four other Crusaders had multi Point nights.
Sherwood Park will get a days break in lieu of back to back Games on Sunday and Monday that begin a five game stretch of Games away from the Sherwood Park Arena.
Sunday afternoon, it’s a familiar foe and familiar building as the Crusaders will make their second visit to the RJ Lalonde Arena in nine days to take on the Bonnyville Pontiacs for the third time in that span.
Sherwood Park is 1-4-0 against the Pontiacs this season.
With the recent ups and downs the Crusaders have had from a Wins and Losses side of things, the dream of catching Bonnyville for fourth has all but faded away and Sherwood Park should focus on getting a victory in a building they haven’t won in yet this season, and a building they’ll most likely start the 2017 Gas Drive Cup Playoffs in.
Even though the Crusaders are 0-2 on the road against the Pontiacs this year, Manah has liked his team’s play at times and has thought they had deserved better.
“It comes down to the same things when we take on the Pontiacs. I’ll sound like a broken record, but the only way we will win in their building is if we have push back, we compete, and are physical. The key intangibles are our focus moving forward into the Playoffs. If our work ethic doesn't match our talent and skill we won't win.” Says Manah.
After Sunday, the Crusaders will travel north to Fort McMurray for a holiday Monday battle against the Oil Barons. Fort McMurray leads the season series 4-1-0 but the Crusaders only victory against the MOB came at the Casman Centre on January 27th.
Heading into Friday, the Oil Barons sit atop of the Viterra North Division and will take on Olds before hosting the Crusaders Monday afternoon as they look to increase their lead in the Division only being three ahead of Whitecourt.
“Keys on Monday will be to stay disciplined with their Special Teams being ranked at the top of the league, competing hard for 60 minutes, and trying to play a solid shut down defensive road Game.” Says Manah.
Certainly the intensity level will be at a high as all of the Crusaders opponents are desperate for Points to try and secure their best finish for the upcoming Gas Drive Cup Playoffs, efforts like the one on Wednesday cannot be brought by Sherwood Park, or the same results may occur.
-Story By Taylor Medak
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