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Crusaders begin new month, with new look

Sherwood Park Crusaders (7-9-1) VS Fort McMurray Oil Barons (14-2-1) Friday November 3rd, 2017 – 7:00pm

Media: Crusaders Hockey on AJHL WebTV; Oil Barons Radio Network

Sherwood Park Crusaders (7-9-1)* @ Lloydminster Bobcats (5-14-0)* Sunday November 5th, 2017 – 2:30pm

Media: AJHL WebTV; Bobcats Radio Network

*record as of November 3rd

SHERWOOD PARK, AB – The week began with a jolt to the Sherwood Park Crusaders system when Tuesday, GM Kyle Chase made one of the biggest trades in recent memory for the organization, sending 1998 born Forward Merritt Oszytko to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in exchange for ’98 born Forward Ryan Cox.  The team also moved Forward Ryan McKinnon to Camrose to make way for the younger players in the lineup.

Read the full story on the trade and GM Chase’s comments here.

Cox brings a wealth of experience to the Crusaders, he’s appeared in a league final and the last two north division finals with Spruce Grove and Fort McMurray.  The St. Albert native represented Team Canada West at last year’s World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, AB.  Coincidently, Cox’s first AJHL point came as a Crusader when he played one game as an affiliate back in 2014-15.

Sherwood Park has not had a player with the post season experience like Cox has since Ryan Luiten played for the organization back in 2012-2013, Luiten won an AJHL championship with Brooks in 2012.

Both the Oil Barons and Crusaders will get a chance to see how the trade will work out right away, as Sherwood Park hosts Fort McMurray Friday night at the Sherwood Park Arena.

Friday night will certainly be the Crusaders toughest test of the season, but in the first meeting against the Oil Barons back on October 21st in Fort McMurray, losing 5-4.

Sherwood Park led 1-0 after the first period, and erased a pair of two goal deficits in that game, the Crusaders will not want to be playing catch-up once again.

Where the Crusaders can look for an edge will have to be in the special teams department, whether it’s capitalizing on the power play, and certainly the new addition of Cox will help, or trying to create offense short handed against one of the league’s most lack lustre power play in the Oil Barons. 

Fort McMurray has only cashed in 10 of their 71 power play opportunities this season.

The Oil Barons are ranked seventh in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, have won two games in a row and are 9-1-0 in their last ten.
The Crusaders will almost certainly have to play a perfect game, that will consist of not allowing any goals in the first and last minutes of periods, limiting turnovers and mistakes and having the mindset of ‘even or better’ on every shift.

Obviously, it will be tough for the Crusaders and the players to deal with the aftermath of this week’s trade, but at least it happens right away. 

Specifically, it will be interesting to see how Crusaders leading scorer Ty Readman handles not playing with Oszytko on a permanent full time basis.  Head Coach Adam Manah had juggled the lines last game and separated the pair.  Both at the time, seemed un-phased and produce points in the 5-3 last Saturday to Whitecourt.

Once the dust settles on Friday, the Crusaders will get a day of rest before heading out on the road to Lloydminster for the first time this season.

Sunday afternoon will mark the second meeting of the season between the Crusaders and Bobcats, with Sherwood Park leading the season series 1-0 after a 5-3 win back on October 18th at the Sherwood Park Arena.

In that game, the first 40 minutes may have been some of the best hockey Sherwood Park had played up until that point, and maybe the season so far. 

After a 4-0 the Crusaders let the Bobcats creep back into things with a trio of goals.  It just goes to show you that you cannot take your foot off the gas pedal no matter who you are playing on any given night.

Lloydminster sits in seventh, trailing Sherwood Park by five points in the standings for fifth and with a pair of wins this weekend could be within one to four points of the Crusaders in Viterra North Division.

Should the Crusaders establish their presence for a full 60 minutes on Sunday, they should come out on top.

It is expected that Goaltender Joshua Dechaine gets the start in goal Friday night against the Oil Barons.  Dechaine made his Crusader debut in Fort McMurray stopping 37 of 42 shots.  It appears that the team has adopted a win and stay in policy as the team has lost four games in a row, and are looking for Dechaine or Brandon Vogel to take the reigns and go on a bit of a run.

Heading into the month of November the Crusaders will only have five opponents in 11 games this month, all of them divisional foes.
It could be a big month in terms of forecasting where the team may end up at season’s end.

-Story By Taylor Medak