The Sherwood Park Crusaders are hoping a return to home ice can return them to the win column when they host the Whitecourt Wolverines Wednesday night at the Sherwood Park Arena. The Crusaders have come up empty handed in the last 3 games going 0-2-1, all on the road.
A much expected close game last Wednesday between the Crusaders and the Lloydminster Bobcats saw the Bobcats pick up another Shootout victory over the Cru in the season series by a score of 2-1.
“On Wednesday we made 1 mistake that ended up in our net in the 3rd period. We lost in a shootout and non of the 3 shooters scored.” Says Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle on Wednesday’s loss.
The Crusaders did manage to pick up a point but unfortunately lost their 2nd straight game to the Bobcats.
After last Wednesday it was off to Camrose on the 7th. Sherwood Park knew they would be in tough going up against one of the top team’s in the Viterra South Division and one of the top team’s in the entire Canadian Junior Hockey League. They did not anticipate it being tougher with having to deal with injuries as well.
“We had 7 regulars out of the lineup and took a 2-2 tie into the 3rd period but 2 undisciplined penalties in the 3rd ended up resulting in goals against to cost us the game.” Fragle noted on the Camrose game.
The bright side for the Crusaders in the 5-3 loss to Camrose was Cameron Brezinski scoring twice to push his goal total on the year to 10, which is in the top 15 for the entire Alberta Junior Hockey League heading into Wednesday’s action.
The road swing would end Saturday night in Fort McMurray as the Oil Barons and Crusaders clashed for the first time this season. Ryan Kruper had the only goals for the Cru in the 4-2 loss which saw the Crusaders never have a lead.
“We gave up 3 goals against that again were our own mistakes. We had a slow start and made too many mistakes.” Said Fragle on the game in Fort McMurray.
“We had too many breakdowns defensively last week.” Added Fragle.
That statement unfortunately sums up the 3 losses last week, especially since the Crusaders pride themselves on playing tight defensive hockey.
As mentioned, the Crusaders return home Wednesday night for 3 straight games at home. They are 7-3-1 at the Sherwood Park Arena so far this season. It will mark the 2nd visit of the season for the Whitecourt Wolverines with the season series being tied at 1.
“Good team defense and discipline will be key against the Wolverines.” Fragle says heading into Wednesday’s game.
The Crusaders will also hope they can repeat the effort that they had to start the September 28th game against the Wolverines when they score on their first 3 shots and eventually won 5-4.
The 2nd game of the 3 game home stand will be against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. Having their first taste of this year’s version of the MOB, Coach Fragle now really knows what to expect on Friday.
“We will see good team speed and they have some high talent to boot.” Fragle noted.
The Oil Barons have 2 of the top 10 scorers in the AJHL with Mitch Vanderlaan and Jetlan Houcher, who also leads the league with 18 goals, heading into this week’s action and sit 2 points back of the Crusaders for 3rd place with 25.
The home stand wraps up Saturday night with a date against the Drumheller Dragons. One of the top team’s in the South, the Dragons sit in 3rd place behind Okotoks and Camrose, but come into this week having won 8 of their last 10.
“The Dragons are always a good structured team that is difficult to play against. We will be tested.” Said Fragle.
After the 3 game home stand the Crusaders will have played 28 games and after the road trip on the 21st to 23rd of November, it will mark the halfway point of the season for the Crusaders. It will be interesting to see how the Crusaders set themselves up for the 2nd half of the season and it all starts Wednesday on home ice against the Wolverines.
-Story By Taylor Medak