Crusaders Clash With ‘Cats

Sherwood Park Crusaders (6-5-1) VS Lloydminster Bobcats (4-9-0) Wednesday October 18th, 2017 – 7:00pm

Media: Crusaders Hockey on AJHL WebTV; Bobcats Radio Network

SHERWOOD PARK, AB – After a weekend off the Sherwood Park Crusaders are back to work in preparation for a busy week that has three matchups against divisional opponents, beginning Wednesday night in Sherwood Park against the Lloydminster Bobcats.

The Crusaders are coming of a 3-0 loss to the Drumheller Dragons that didn’t seem as bad as one might think.  Certainly there were things the Crusaders could have done a little bit better last Friday at home, but the matchup against the Dragons showed just how hard it is to win in the AJHL.

“I thought we were pretty good defensively five on five Friday.  We didn't give Drumheller much even strength, but unfortunately our penalty kill let us down on two mistakes which led to two of their goals.  Offensively, we need to create more chances.  We got away from what was effective for us in Drayton Valley which was shooting pucks, and getting bodies to the blue paint to put in those rebounds.”  Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.

Sherwood Park was hoping to carry the momentum they generated in their 8-1 last Wednesday in Drayton Valley into Friday’s contest against Drumheller, but the Dragons stymied the Crusaders when they had to the most.

Last Friday’s game was an early showing of what playoff hockey is like in the AJHL for some of the Crusader players.

“I felt that was as almost a complete game we’ve played against a really good team.  It just shows what’s coming for us, everyone says we are a young team, we don’t use that as an excuse.  We learnt a lot from that game, it definitely felt like a playoff game and down the road we are going to win some of those games.”  Said Crusaders Rookie Forward William Zapernick.

“Absolutely it was like playoff game.  Drumheller has a solid team, they compete hard, and have an exceptional work ethic.  We thought our guys did a good job matching that, but we didn't step up our game enough to overcome what they were challenging us with.  We need to continue to learn how to play against the heavy hitters in the league, and find ways to win those tight games.”  Added Manah.

With Friday’s result in mind the Crusaders worked on a lot of battles in practice this week, trying to perfect the net-front and how to gain position on the offensive and defensive side of the puck.  Those are areas that the Crusaders need to improve in order to create more offense.

With Wednesday being the first matchup of the season against Lloydminster, the Crusaders know it’s imperative to focus on what they can do and control against an unknown opponent.

“No matter who we play, I think we’re focused on executing our game plan.  This is the perfect case for it, we don’t know what we’ll see from Lloydminster, but we’re confident in ourselves that if we come in, play our systems and get a good effort from everybody, there’s really no team out of reach for us.”  Pointed out Zapernick.

The Bobcats trail the Crusaders in the Viterra North Division by five points sitting in seventh in place with a record of 4-9-0.

“They have a good batch of returning players that gained experience last year.  They will work hard, compete, and they bring a PP that has been clicking this year.  They made some roster moves throughout the offseason to bolster their back end as well so we will be challenged in all areas.”  Says Manah on the Bobcats.

Bobcats Forward Kobe Walker leads the team with seven points as the second year hometown boy looks to build of his 40 point performance in 2016-17 with Lloydminster.

The Bobcats will certainly be leaning on Walker and others for scoring, the Bobcats are second last in the AJHL when it comes to offense.  Lloydminster has only put 27 pucks in the oppositions net so far this season.

The Crusaders will have a bit of a new look when they hit the ice for Wednesday’s game, they have added Sherwood Park native Erik Miller to the Forward group.  Miller, a ’99 born Centre, comes to his hometown Cru after two full seasons with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. Miller played a total of 100 games with the Blazers putting up six goals and eight assists over that time.
Making the Blazers in 2015 was quite a big deal as he came directly out of the Sherwood Park Squires Minor Midget AAA program, something that is more common to see out of the AJHL than it is Major Junior.

Miller will wear number 22.

Read the full story on the acquisition of Miller here.

Sherwood Park also made a tweak in goal this week, releasing Sam Burford and bringing in Josh King.

King, from Edmonton, AB started this season in Melville of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and was released after three games with the Millionaires.  The 1999 born Goaltender spent last season with the Maple Leaf Athletic Club of Edmonton in the AMHL, posting five wins, two shutouts, a 2.83 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.

Wednesday will be an opportunity for the Crusaders to pick up points before the head out on a two game road trip this weekend in Fort McMurray and Bonnyville.

-Story By Taylor Medak