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Crusaders Battle Thunder In Home And Home

Sherwood Park Crusaders (30-16-2) @ Drayton Valley Thunder (19-24-4) February 5th, 2016 – 7:00 PM

Media: AJHL Web TV

Sherwood Park Crusaders (30-16-2)* VS Drayton Valley Thunder (19-24-4)* February 6th, 2016 – 7:00 PM

Media: AJHL Web TV

*record as of February 5th

Consistency is what the Sherwood Park Crusaders are striving for with one month remaining in the AJHL Regular Season schedule.  The goal of getting Home Ice advantage in the first round of the Playoffs is fading as the Crusaders have had an up and down 2016 going 7-5 so far.

Sherwood Park is coming off a disappointing loss to the last place Calgary Mustangs last Sunday, 4-1 the Crusaders fell down South.  Luckily they won the night before, 5-4 over the Calgary Canucks, but that wasn’t the prettiest of victories either.

“We weren't very good all weekend, in both games we had one good period. That's not good to expect to win consistently.”  Says Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle.

That’s been the story for the Crusaders really this season and their inability to come out with consistent efforts time in and time out, other than the 17 Point streak that occurred in November.

Although the team play as been inconsistent, individual players have stepped in their play, one of them being first year Crusader, Darcy Zaharichuk.

“He is making quick decisions and is going to the net with purpose.”  Says Fragle on Zaharichuk.

The Sherwood Park product scored three of the six Crusader goals last weekend and is riding five game Point streak.

The Crusaders will need to tighten up areas of their Special Teams going Forward as last week they allowed two Power Play Goals against and one Short Handed Goal.

“Everything needs to tighten up, scoring execution on the Power Play and more discipline so we don't put pressure on our Penalty Kill to kill as much as we have been!”  Added Fragle.

Friday night, the Crusaders return to divisional play as they wrap up their season series with the Drayton Valley Thunder in a Home and Home matchup. 

This weekend marks the second time this year the Sherwood Park and Drayton Valley have played Home and Home Games.

“We don't mind the home and home matchups, it becomes more of chess match then normal as both team make adjustments.”  Notes Fragle.

A chess match indeed it’s been between the Crusaders and Thunder this season, as three of the four contests have been decided by two goals or less.  Even the

January 16th contest in Sherwood Park with the Crusaders winning 5-2 was close until midway through the 3rd Period.

“They’re a very good team, they have excellent team speed and strong Goaltending.”  Says Fragle on the Thunder.

Drayton Valley, much like the Crusaders sit comfortably in their respective spot in the standings.  Sixth spot with 42 Points is where the Thunder lie in the Viterra North Division standings.

The strong Goaltending has come from Matt Berlin, who the Thunder picked up from the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League.  Berlin has gone 3-3 since joining the Thunder and Brett Zarowny has gone 2-3 since he has been with Drayton Valley.

“In order for two victories we will need to play with strong defensive zone habits, structure, execution and discipline.” Notes Fragle.

Saturday night the scene shifts to Sherwood Park for the final meeting of the season, the Crusaders are 2-0 vs the Thunder at the Sherwood Park Arena this season.

It really is must win for both games this weekend, and ultimately every game going forward.  However, a few wins this weekend and one on Tuesday in Olds, would set things up nicely for next weekend as another Home and Home loom with the Bonnyville Pontiacs who are ten points better in the standings than Sherwood Park and hold on to the final Home Ice Playoff spot.  Sherwood Park heads into the weekend with 62 Points and 12 Games remaining.

Players to watch:  For the Crusaders, as mentioned Forward Darcy Zaharichuk is riding a five Game Point streak, scoring three Goals and four Assists and Defenseman Joel Webb has five Points against the Thunder this year.  For Drayton Valley, Forward Brayden Harris leads the team with 37 Points, Troy Rapuano is a close second with 34 Points and Matt McNeill leads the team in Goals with 17.

-Story By Taylor Medak