The Sherwood Park Crusaders are returning home confident after splitting their first two games of the opening round best of 5 of the AJHL's playoffs versus the Grand Prairie Storm. The Crusaders were able to grab Game 1 at the Canada Games Arena in GP, but fell short in Game 2 losing 3-0.
“It's a tough place to win so we are happy with the split. Grand Prairie had a desperate effort in game 2.” Said Crusader Head Coach Tim Fragle.
After Game 1's 3-2 victory the Cru came out hard in the first period, but a late goal on the Power Play from Gus Correale got the Storm rolling and not looking back.
Fragle feels his team needs that first goal in every contest to boost his squad’s confidence.
“We have had too many games where we out play teams in the first period and don't score so yes confidence is big for us.”
Part of the difference from Game 1 to 2 was the special teams. The Cru were able to hold off the Storm in Game 1 on the man advantage, however the next night was not the same.
“GP cashed in on a back door shot and goal mouth scramble for both PP goals. We had great looks and opportunities on our PP but didn't produce and at this time of year it’s about production.” Fragle said of his team who are now 0 for 10 in the series.
Part of the reason in the Game 2 loss was the play of the AJHL's Goaltender of The Year, Grand Prairie's Nick Kulmanovsky. The Alaskan native steered away 34 Crusader shots in the 3-0 Game 2 victory.
“He is the best goalie in the league for a reason. We need to get to rebounds quicker and convert on quick releases.” Fragle spoke of Kulmanovsky.
The bright spots have been the play of the line of Eric Liknes, Sean MacTavish and Ryan Luiten. Liknes, who missed a large portion of the Regular Season with multiple injuries, leads the Cru with 2 points.
On the side of Grand Prairie, Gus Correale and Mike Forsyth lead the way for the Storm with 4 points. Look for Fragle to use the last change to his advantage in effort to shutdown the big guns of the Storm.
Game 3 will be tonight at the Sherwood Park Arena at 7pm, Defenceman Josh Healey will receive recognition on winning Defenceman of The Year.
Game 4 goes tomorrow night at 7pm at the Sherwood Park Arena. For tickets call the Crusaders office at 780-417-1175.