The AJHL’s restart got underway across the province on Friday night and the Sherwood Park Crusaders were no different. The team travelled up to Bonnyville for the first of eight matchups with the Pontiacs over the next month. Carson Cherepak got the start for the Crusaders, while the Pontiacs countered with Easton Hesse.
The first period resembled a matchup between two teams who hadn’t played much hockey over the last four months, as neither team could find an edge over the other in the first 20 minutes. Sherwood Park outshot Bonnyville 13-8 in the period, despite spending a large amount of time in their own zone. Neither goalie was willing to give an inch as the teams headed into the dressing room.
Going into the second period, the question was who would break the deadlock and the answer came early in the frame. Ty Mueller scored the first goal of the restart for the Crusaders, as he forced a turnover and put the puck behind Hesse, giving the Crusaders a 1-0 lead just three and a half minutes into the second. The lead would last until the final minute of the period, as the Crusaders and Cherepak held the Pontiacs at bay. Zack Whittaker got the puck behind Cherepak and tied the game up with 55 seconds left in period two. Sherwood Park outshot the Pontiacs 15-12 in the middle frame but headed into the third deadlocked at one.
The score remained at 1-1 for over half of the third period, before the Pontiacs found the advantage. Sebastian Tamburro picked up the puck in the neutral zone, streaked into the Crusaders end, got past the defender and ripped a wrist shot past Cherepak to give the hosts the lead. The Crusaders pushed for a tying goal, pulling the goalie with around two minutes left. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, Ryan Koebel stole the puck in his own zone, slapped it down the ice and it had eyes, as the empty net goal put the game to bed. Bonnyville takes the first game 3-1, despite being outshot in every period, for a total of 40-29 in favour of Sherwood Park.
The two teams are back in action Saturday night at the Sherwood Park Arena. Puck drop is 7 p.m. The game will be shown at Average Joe’s in Sherwood Park and on HockeyTV.
Story by Zach Marks