Sherwood Park, AB: The Suburb Series was renewed this weekend, as the Sherwood Park Crusaders met the Spruce Grove Saints in a pair of games. With the AJHL announcing earlier in the week an official start date to the regular season, both teams were looking to find their stride in time for their opening games.
Friday night was spent in the Sherwood Park Arena, where the Crusaders were 2-1-0 coming into the game. The first period saw the Crusaders jump out to an early 2-0 lead, with Ty Ettinger striking on the powerplay, and Nick Magis adding the other. Jordan Frey got the start for Sherwood Park, stopping all 15 shots he faced in the frame. Spruce Grove countered with Tyler Palmer, who made ten saves to keep Spruce within 2.
The Saints found their scoring touch in the second period, putting three past Frey, two of which came on the powerplay. Jacob Rochford and Reid Schaefer scored on back to back man advantages tying the game. The tie lasted all of three minutes, Dylan Guenther scored his first for the Crusaders to retake the lead. Guenther was loaned to Sherwood Park earlier in the week by the Oil Kings until the beginning of the WHL season. Shane LaVelle potted one just 1:11 after Guenther, to send the game into the third tied at 3. Frey made nine saves in the period, while Palmer and backup Maxence Duchesne combined to stop 8 of 9.
Spruce Grove?s powerplay continued its dominance, scoring a third goal, this one coming from LaVelle for his second of the night. Sherwood Park wouldn?t let up, and Brett Ursulak buried his first goal for the club, tying the game at 4. Ty Mueller scored another big goal for the Crusaders, scoring for the sixth time in the exhibition season, to give Sherwood Park a 5-4 lead. Spruce Grove would get a late powerplay, but couldn?t capitalize, while Tanner Fincaryk and Blake Sydlowski both found the empty cage to ice the game for Sherwood Park at a score of 7-4. Jordan Frey stopped 34 shots for the win, while Max Duchesne stopped 8 of 11 and took the loss.
The scene shifted to Spruce Grove and the Grant Fuhr Arena, as the Saints looked for their first win of the exhibition games. The Crusaders were looking to push their streak to six straight wins.
Things got off about as well as they could for Spruce Grove, as they scored the only goal of the period when Sam Vincent put one over the shoulder of Carson Cherepak and just inside the post to give the Saints the lead at the break. Cherepak stopped the other 10 shots he faced, while Blake Lyda stopped everything the Crusaders threw at him, making 14 saves after 20.
A late penalty in the first period against the Saints came back to bite them, as Dylan Guenther scored his second for the team just 22 seconds into the second period, tying the game at 1. The Saints would capitalize on a 5-on-3 powerplay later in the period, when Brophy Dunne caught Cherepak sliding back and forth, sliding it bottom right from the point. The Crusaders would respond quickly, as the other WHL loan player, Nick Bowman, found the scoresheet with a slick backhand through Lyda. That was it for the second period that saw three goals, and plenty of chances for both teams. Cherepak made another 11 saves as Lyda made 10 to keep things tied.
Spruce Grove took their third lead of the game at the halfway point of the period, with Adam Hall scoring unassisted at the 9:27 mark of the third. The 3-2 score would remain until Dylan Guenther?s second of the game tied things for Sherwood Park with just 40 seconds left in regulation. Both goalies continued strong nights, with Cherepak making 14 saves and Lyda making 10.
Despite never leading in the game, the Sherwood Park Crusaders took the win in O.T. Spruce Grove hit the crossbar and the post in the first 2 minutes but couldn?t beat Cherepak. The only shot the Crusaders had in overtime came off the stick of Matt Savoie, as he ripped one low blocker on Lyda, scoring the winning goal for Sherwood Park. Carson Cherepak picked up the win, making 37 saves, while Lyda made 34 in the loss.