Sherwood Park Crusaders (9-13-2) VS Grande Prairie Storm (13-7-3) Sunday November 19th, 2017 – 2:15pm
SHERWOOD PARK, AB – It feels like the Sherwood Park Crusaders are playing a different sport at the moment, as they are entrenched in a string of three straight games against the Grande Prairie Storm.
It’s in Baseball where you see three in a row against one team, or maybe the comparison can made towards of a playoff like feel as the Crusaders will see the Strom in their next four games out of five, starting Sunday afternoon in Sherwood Park.
The team will look to build off two solid efforts on the road during the week, banged up and down key contributors, the Crusaders dropped a 3-1 decision in Whitecourt on Tuesday, and a closely contested affair Wednesday in Grande Prairie, losing 5-4 in overtime.
“I thought we had a good effort in both games. We were playing two very tough opponents, and with six regulars out it doesn't make things any easier. But the guys gave us everything they had, and we can respect that. Hopefully we can battle through this tough stretch, and find ways to win some games.” Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
Tuesday in Whitecourt, the Crusaders were without Defensemen Tyler Pang, Blair Bush, Michael Bentz, Kole Bryks and leading scorer, Forward Ty Readman.
Those five would also miss Wednesday’s game in Grande Prairie, along with Forward Brandon Wallis who was injured after he scored the only Crusader goal in the 3-1 loss to Whitecourt.
With bodies down, especially on the blue line, the Crusaders had to bring a few reinforcements with them on the road. Defensemen Connor Hart (SSAC Midget AAA) and Kyle Fulton (St. Albert Midget AAA) made their AJHL debuts on Tuesday.
Manah was pleased with the efforts of both 2001 born Defensemen.
“They both played solid for us. Hart is a smart player that makes subtle plays in his own end, shoots the puck well, and makes [smart] plays. Fulton is a good puck mover, skates well, is smart, and plays hard every shift.” Noted the Head Coach.
With Ty Readman out of the lineup the last three games, Forward Dylan Stewart has been leaned on a little bit more, seeing more ice time as the team’s number one center. The veteran who played his 200th game in junior hockey on Wednesday has had nine points in his last seven games, five as the main guy down the middle.
“Dylan has been protecting pucks better then we've ever seen him. By doing so, he's becoming a harder player to play against and is finding himself taking more pucks to the net. On top of that he's done a good job stepping up in the absence of Readman and providing extra scoring for us.” Said Manah on Stewart.
The Crusaders continued to get scoring from their most recent acquisition, as Forward Ryan Cox provide the tying goal in Wednesday’s loss in Grande Prairie.
Cox scored with 0.7 seconds remaining on the score clock in the third period to tie the game 4-4, it was his sixth goal in seven games with the Crusaders.
What was equally as special as the Crusaders tying the game against the Storm late, was the fact it was the first time in nine tries Sherwood Park tied a hockey game late with an extra attacker this season.
It had been extremely frustrating for the Cru, especially at home, where the team has dropped four straight games with an empty net goal allowed.
“Finally, in our ninth attempt with the goalie pulled we got rewarded with a big goal that got us a point. Obviously, we wanted the two points but in this league when points are tough to come by we'll take them when we can get them.” Said Manah.
Even with a lot of positives in the last couple of games, the bottom line is that the Crusaders lost both games which extended their losing streak to four games.
The team unfortunately blew a two-goal lead Wednesday night and allowed the offensively gifted Grande Prairie Storm to play their game, which included at hat-trick from Dallas Comeau of the Storm.
Manah knows his team will have to try and slow down the Storm with a solid defensive effort.
“They are a very skilled group that can make plays, and burn you offensively if we aren't good in our own end or backcheck. They seem to like to play the run & gun game, and that's something that we can't afford to do with them.”
The Crusaders should get a bit of a boost on the backend with Michael Bentz returning to the lineup on Sunday, but expect a lot of Captain Brendan Kallis and Ben McLeod Sunday afternoon.
Sherwood Park will likely go with Brandon Vogel in goal against Grande Prairie, as he will get his first look at the Storm. With so many games against the Storm the next bit, both Vogel and Joshua Dechaine, who started on Wednesday, will get to see their fair share of the Storm.
-Story by Taylor Medak