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Crusaders Battle Thunder on the Road

Sherwood Park Crusaders 8-10-1 @ Drayton Valley Thunder 3-18-0 Wednesday November 8th, 2017 – 7:30pm

Media: AJHL WebTV

SHERWOOD PARK, AB – The Sherwood Park Crusaders got back in the win column this past Sunday with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Lloydminster Bobcats.  The quest to extend the win total resumes Wednesday night on the road in Drayton Valley. 

The win on Sunday snapped a five-game losing streak for the Cru, a streak that saw the team drop some very close games, including a 5-3 loss to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons days before snapping the losing streak.

“We found a way to lose that game, and it was tough for the group to digest that one.  Biggest thing our group is learning right now is how to play a complete 60 minutes.”  Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.

Friday’s game against the Oil Barons was highlighted with the fact that it was the first meeting between the two clubs after they executed the biggest trade of the AJHL season so far.  Sherwood Park sent Forward Merritt Oszytko to the MOB in exchange for Forward Ryan Cox.

Both players are expected to make immediate impacts on their new clubs, and they did just so on Friday as both players scored in their first game with their new team.

“It felt unbelievable scoring against the old team.  I got a real nice pass from [Tyler] Pang for the break away, I was fortunate enough to beat [Eric] Szudor as I’ve done that move in practice many of times.  I was surprised it worked.”  Said Ryan Cox on scoring in Friday’s game.

The Crusaders unfortunately squandered a 3-0 lead to the top team in the Viterra North Division and as the Head Coach said, the team is learning how to play those tough, difficult games for a complete 60 minutes.

“We just got to learn how to close out those type of games.  We’re still a young team and I think we’ll keep improving, we found away to close against Lloyminster.  I’m confident in the group we’ve got.”  Added Cox.

Sherwood Park got quite the push from the Bobcats on Sunday, specifically a back and forth second period that saw the teams combine for five goals.  Lloydminster put 38 shots on Brandon Vogel, including seven in overtime.

Manah was extremely pleased with the group’s effort.

“We played pretty close to a 60 minute effort once again and found a way to grind it out in a tough building.  Credit goes to the guys for finding a way to win, and break the streak we've been on.  Overall our game has been good it's just been the small detailed mistakes that seem to be biting us every time we turn around.”  Said Manah.

The shootout winner was potted by none other than Ryan Cox, who also scored in regulation in the game against Lloydminster, and now has goals in both games since joining the Crusaders.

“Ryan is off to a good start with us.  He brings a lot of good things to our hockey team.  His speed, shot, playing a 200 foot game, and just being able to take pucks to the net.  You can tell when Ryan gets the puck in the offensive zone that he's looking to put it in the back of the net every time he gets it.”  Noted Manah.

Sherwood Park will hope Cox and the rest of the players can amp up the play heading into Wednesday’s game against the Drayton Valley Thunder and take advantage of a damaged last place squad.

Drayton Valley made headlines at the beginning of the week when it was reported that Head Coach Kyle Adams was relieved of his duties by the Thunder.

Under Adams, the team went 3-18-0 with a league worst of 42 goals for and 106 goals against.  Adams had already been relieved of his General Manger duties a few weeks ago, making way for former Whitecourt Wolverines Head Coach and GM Joey Bouchard who was hired as the new GM in Drayton Valley.

The move may have come as a bit of a surprise as the Thunder had been playing better hockey, most recently beating Canmore, losing a nail biter 4-3 to Fort McMurray and allowing no goals against five on five in a 3-1 loss to Whitecourt.

Assistant Coach Derek Wiest has been named the interim Head Coach.

The Crusaders know they will get a Thunder squad that will want to make amends for the coaching change come Wednesday night, but the focus will be on their own game and what they can control.

“For us the keys will be playing a simple game on the road, being better on the backcheck whether that's off the rush or into the defensive zone, and just continuing to find ways to play a full 60 minute game.  That's probably our biggest challenge right now as a group.”  Says Manah.

The Crusaders have played the Thunder extremely well this season, in the three previous meetings Sherwood Park has outscored Drayton Valley 20-7. 

Sherwood Park has won both visits to the Drayton Valley Omniplex so far this season.

“Biggest reason for the success might be simply be that we have created a lot of offensive scoring chances against them.  We have kept the game simple in the offensive zone, and fired a ton of pucks to the net.  That coupled with our power play being effective has helped propel us into some wins so far this season.”  Said Manah on playing the Thunder.

With a victory the Crusaders can improve their record to 9-10-1 and move within two points of the Bonnyville Pontiacs for fifth in the division as Sherwood Park and Drayton Valley are the only teams competing in the AJHL on Wednesday night.

-Story By Taylor Medak