*record as of November 14th
SHERWOOD PARK, AB – A quick trip on the road is just what the Crusaders might need to get on a roll and try to climb up the standings in the Viterra North Division. Sherwood Park has lost five in a row on home ice, and has lost some close ones in the process. On the road, they are one of the better teams in the AJHL with a record of 6-3-0 and will hope to at least get to seven wins when they travel to Whitecourt Tuesday and Grande Prairie Wednesday.
The Crusaders are coming off hard fought efforts against the Drayton Valley Thunder and the Whitecourt Wolverines this past weekend.
“I Thought we had a pretty good weekend actually. Unfortunately we lose both, but on Friday against Drayton Valley we had what was probably our best effort of the season. We outshot them 54-20, and just ran into a hot goaltender. Sometimes that happens, and that's the game. You win some nights you maybe shouldn't, and lose some games in which you play well.” Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
Friday night, despite the loss, was one of the best games offensively for the Crusaders but it was Drayton Valley Goaltender Tymen Edelkoort III that stole the show with 50 saves in the 6-4 victory for the Thunder.
Saturday night, the Crusaders were once again side by side with the Whitecourt Wolverines. Unfortunately, the Crusaders spotted the Wolverines a 3-0 lead early in the second period and Sherwood Park did all they could to chip away at that lead, getting to within a goal mid way through the third. The Wolverines would ice the game in the final minute with an empty net goal from Liam Motley to win 4-2.
“We played 53 minutes, and not a full 60. Whitecourt being the veteran team they are took advantage of that and scored three, which, ended up being enough in the end.” Added Manah.
One concerning issue for the Crusaders right now has been the fact they’ve allowed goals in and around the one-minute mark of periods.
Friday, Drayton Valley scored 56 seconds into the hockey game and as well just over a minute into the second period. The Wolverines were able to open the scoring in Saturday’s contest 1:01 into the second period.
“It's concerning for sure. It really just comes down to the players preparing the right way, and focusing on the task at hand. The starts and finishes to periods have hampered us all year so at some point here the group is going to have to realize the importance of the first and last few minutes of a period.” Says Manah.
The Crusaders have skated with the Wolverines all year, even though Whitecourt is 4-0-0 against the Crusaders, every game has essentially been a one goal hockey game with the Wolverines scoring empty net goals in the last three meetings and a victory in overtime back on September 24th.
“We just need to be competitive every shift. Win our puck battles, play physical, be strong with backside pressure, and keep the game simple out there. It's not an easy rink to play in, and if we want to be effective we'll have to focus on the little details and habits.” Noted Manah on playing Whitecourt, who comes into Tuesday’s game having won 10 games in a row.
Sherwood Park’s only visit to the Scott Safety Centre was in early October with the Crusaders falling 3-1.
Wednesday night, the Crusaders will face the only divisional opponent they have yet to play in 2017-18, the Grande Prairie Storm.
Grande Prairie has been playing fantastic hockey so far in 2017-18, they sit in fourth place in the division, have the fifth most goals scored with 82, fifth fewest goals allowed with 59 and the league’s second-best penalty kill at 87.8%. The Storm also have the fourth leading scorer in the AJHL, Forward Justin Bernier in their lineup.
“From everything we've heard we know they are a skilled team that can score goals and like to take a lot of offensive chances. They have a deep forward group, and have good goaltending in the pipes.” Says Manah on the Storm.
Since it’s taken the first two months of the season for these two teams to clash, the Crusaders and Storm will see a lot of each other over the next few weeks. Wednesday night will mark the first of five meetings between the two clubs in that span, including the next three games for the Crusaders will be against the Storm.
Goaltender Brandon Vogel will make his second consecutive start Tuesday night for the Crusaders. Vogel played well enough in Saturday’s outing against the Wolverines to earn the nod once again.
Head Coach Adam Manah is eager to get Vogel back in the net.
“He was just solid and steady in the net for us on Saturday. He gave us an opportunity to climb back into the game, and that's all we are looking for from our goalies. Be calm, steady, and give our young group an opportunity to get going in front of him.”
-Story by Taylor Medak
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