It was a wild weekend for the Sherwood Park Crusaders; however, the team emerged from Friday and Saturday's action with four points after defeating both the Calgary Mustangs and Grande Prairie Storm over the past three days.
Friday evening was School Night at the Arena, and the Crusaders played host to not only the Mustangs but three schools from the Sherwood Park area. It was one of the most exciting games of the season, with an atmosphere to match with over 1,400 fans packing the rink to cheer on the Crusaders.
While the crowd was excited from the onset of the game, the Crusaders didn't quite get off to the start they wanted. While starting goaltender Matt Berlin was outstanding for the duration of the game, the Mustangs were able to create a number of high-quality chances early in the period and were able to get on the scoreboard first, with Jackson Salt putting one past Berlin at the 11:38 mark and giving the 'Stangs a 1-0 lead. However, Calgary's goal seemed to spark the Crusaders, who were able to finish the period tied 1-1 after Jacob Franczak banged in his 9th of the season. The Crusaders also finished the period with the advantage in shots.
The 2nd period, much like the first, started off with the Mustangs creating consistent pressure on the Crusaders. Matt Berlin was able to make a terrific save on Jackson Salt to prevent the forward from scoring his second goal of the game. However, the 'Stangs were able to take a 2-1 lead on the strength of a Tyler Lentz goal. While Carter Savoie was able to score an equalizer just over two minutes later, Jarret Timmerman responded at the 7-minute mark to give Calgary a 3-2 lead. It was a lead that wouldn't be relinquished through the 2nd, and the Crusaders headed to the dressing room down by a goal.
The third period was all Crusaders.
Sometimes, you need your captain to step up, and that's exactly what Tyler Jette did just under two minutes into the third period. At the 1:46 mark, the defenceman scored his 4th goal of the season to tie the game at 3's. While it would remain that way until the midway mark, the Crusaders were firing on all cylinders throughout the stanza, with the team eventually finishing with 13 shots to the Storm's 4 in the period. At the 10:53 mark, rookie Carter Savoie broke the deadlock, potting his 22nd goal of the season to give the Cru a 4-3 lead that they would hold to the end of the game and sending the 1,444 fans home happy.
Following their thrilling come-from-behind victory on Friday, the Crusaders were back in action 24 hours later, taking on the Grande Prairie Storm on Saturday evening.
Admittedly, both teams didn't get off to their best starts through the first period. It was evident that both the Crusaders and Storm had played the evening before, with very little of note throughout the first half of the period. However, at the 14:36 mark, Connor Blake broke Matt Berlin's shutout bid, scoring off a pass from Vincent Milot-Ouellet to give Grande Prairie a 1-0 lead that they would hold until the intermission.
The Crusaders may have started the game slower than they would have liked; however, the team came storming back in the 2nd stanza with a four-goal period. Michael Benning (4), Brayden Hyland (8), Brett Wieschorster (10), and William Zapernick (21) all scored in the 2nd, with the Crusaders defence holding the Storm to only five shots. An additional goal was waved off due to a crease violation, giving the Crusaders a 4-1 lead heading into the third period.
A wild third period first saw Nick Bowman extend the Crusaders lead to 5-1 with his 9th goal of the season. Following the goal, emotions started to spill over for both the Storm and the Crusaders, with a fight occurring between Garrett Clegg and Jonathan Hader just over five minutes into the period. It seemed to spark the Storm, who were able to respond on the subsequent powerplay off of an Alex Nordstrom goal.
However, the powerplay tally was as close as the Storm would get. With just over five minutes left to play in the game, Arjun Atwal was able to streak in shorthanded and pick up his 12th goal of the season to give the Crusaders a decisive 6-2 lead that would hold up until the end of the game.
Throughout the weekend, goaltender Matt Berlin was sensational, making 48 saves between his two starts.
After a pair of back-to-back victories, the Crusaders are next in action against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Tuesday evening. The game can be viewed at Average Joes Sports Bar in Sherwood Park, or on HockeyTV with a paid subscription.