The Crusaders (23-19-6) had a triumphant weekend with a 4-2 win over Spruce Grove (28-13-6) on Friday, Jan. 25, and a 3-1 win in Leduc against Bonnyville (25-16-8) on Saturday, Jan 25.
The Cru currently sit seventh out of eight teams in the North Division and 10th overall in the Alberta Junior Hockey League standings.
According to head coach Tim Fragle, the two wins came when the Cru needed them most.
“It was good timing because it is starting to tighten up now,” he said. “We are in it again, so that’s good.”
The wins came in front of a couple of bigger than usual crowds (576 in Sherwood Park and 790 in Leduc), and Fragle believes this may have helped the team, but knows that attendance is more that just wins and losses.
“The Friday night crowd in Sherwood Park was great,” he said. “Then again, a really good crowd in Leduc. I think the boys fed off that energy and excitement. That is one thing I feel, that from a home game perspective, there is a way better atmosphere and it gave the guys that much more energy.
“It goes hand in hand, but I don’t think it is the be-all and end-all. Last year we had a much better team in terms of the win column and we didn’t see a whole bunch of increase there, so I’m kind of on the fence about that. I think you can ride a little bit of a wave when you are playing well as far as that goes.
“For the long term you just need to have some consistency if we are going to get more people out.”
The Cru’s next game is Wednesday, Jan. 30 against the Oil Barons in Fort McMurray. The Barons are four points ahead of the Cru in the North with 56, which makes this game an important one.
On top of that, the highway to Fort Mac is a physical and mental journey that Fragle knows will add another test to an already important and difficult game.
“We have four wins against them and we have the season series on them,” he said. “We’ve played well against them, particularly in Fort McMurray. They get about 1,800 a night there in attendance, so it’s a great atmosphere and the guys seem to feed off that. On the flip side, this is our single trip and this trip up there is a real tough one. When you have to ride the bus for six hours then get off the bus and go and play. The single game is always a tough one. With the double one you get up there and get established and get some rest, and so we need to get a really good start on Wednesday. That is the key.”
The Cru’s next home game is Saturday, Feb. 2 against the Brooks Bandits (43-2-2) at 7 p.m. The Bandits are leading the AJHL standings with 88 points, have four of the top sixh scorers in the AJHL and are currently leading the Canadian Junior Hockey League standings as well.