*record as of November 30th, 2017
SHERWOOD PARK, AB – The Sherwood Park Crusaders have certainly seen a lot of the Grande Prairie Storm in November, and they will get another couple of games against their North Division rival the next couple of days as they begin one of their toughest road trips of the season Thursday in Grande Prairie and ending Saturday in Whitecourt.
The Crusaders have certainly enjoyed playing the Storm in the three previous meetings this season as the club is 2-0-1 against Grande Prairie.
The overtime loss came back on November 15th in Grande Prairie as the Storm edged out Sherwood Park 5-4. Both teams blew two goal leads in that game.
The two wins for the Crusaders against the Storm have come at the Sherwood Park Arena, 5-3 on November 19th and a 6-2 thumping on November 24th.
A key stat reflective of the success the Crusaders have had against Grande Prairie, has been Sherwood Park’s success on the penalty kill versus the Storm’s fourth ranked power play, killing off nine of 11 opportunities in the three meetings.
One player who has certainly enjoyed this stretch of games against the Storm has been Forward Dylan Stewart. The first-year Crusaders has scored six goals against Grande Prairie, and a total of seven goals in his last four games.
Sherwood Park will need to continue to keep the Storm’s top guns at bay, like they did in Sherwood Park, but were unable to slow down the likes of Dallas Comeau and Connor Blake in the 5-4 overtime loss on November 15th. Comeau had a hat trick while Blake scored a pair of goals, including the game winner on a penalty shot in the extra period.
Storm Forward Edouard Michaud is the reigning AJHL Player of the Week. The Quebec native has scored in the last two games against the Crusaders and is riding a five-game scoring streak. Slowing the Storm leading scorer in the next two games will be a key for success for Sherwood Park.
With a pair of wins, the Crusaders could surpass the Storm for fourth place in the Viterra North Division and push their season high winning streak to five games.
After Thursday and Friday in Grande Prairie, the Crusaders will travel to Whitecourt for their final meeting of the season against the Wolverines.
Whitecourt is 5-0-0 against Sherwood Park this season, but the five wins haven’t come easily to the Wolverines. Every game, except for the September 24th overtime win in Sherwood Park and the most recent on November 14th, have been one goal games with empty net goals scored by Whitecourt in the final minutes.
The Crusaders have given all they could against the Wolverines and Saturday will be no exception. The key in that one will simply be playing a full 60 minutes and limiting mistakes.
Sherwood Park received a boost to their offense this week, as Forward Arjun Atwal has returned to the team from the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League.
Before joining the Blades mid-way through last season, Atwal had 14 goals and 17 assists in 33 games with the Crusaders. Had Atwal played all of 2016-17 with the Crusaders, he likely would have been in the running for the AJHL’s Rookie of the Year award.
Expect Atwal to play the Left Wing with Dylan Stewart and Ryan Cox.
The CJHL/AJHL December 1st cut down date is imminent, the Crusaders and all teams can have no more than 23 players carded on their roster after this date. It will be interesting to see what GM Kyle Chase will do with the Crusaders roster, especially with the injuries the team has endured. Could we see the Crusaders make some deals or just trim their roster down to 23?
-Story by Taylor Medak
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