Sherwood Park Crusaders (17-14-1) VS Drayton Valley Thunder (8-22-4) Wednesday December 14th, 2016 – 7:00 PM
Wednesday night the Sherwood Park Crusaders will look to pick up their 11th Win on home ice in 2016-17 as they host the Drayton Valley Thunder for the second time this season.
Wednesday game marks the first time in four outings that the Crusaders will face a divisional opponent, they’ve played the South Division four straight times.
Most recently Sherwood Park had a trip down south to battle Drumheller and Brooks, where the Cru went 1-1 last weekend wining 5-4 over the Dragons on Friday and falling to the Bandits 5-1 on Saturday.
“We were happy with the split on the road. Typically, in the past we haven't had a ton of success on this road trip when we get Drumheller and Brooks. We had a gutsy effort in a tough building on Friday, and really played well in the back 40 minutes. In Brooks, we thought we played well but made some minor errors in our awareness on the ice in different situations and you can't do that against a team like Brooks.” Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
It was a back and forth game in Drumheller as the Crusaders were forced to comeback three times in that game to pull out a win.
“[Drumheller] came hard in the 1st period, and we knew we would have to push back against a heavy hockey team. Give the guys credit they did exactly that, and got rewarded for it. We out chanced them 17-4 in the last two periods, and we were able to capitalize on some of our opportunities which was huge.” Added Manah on the game against the Dragons.
Amidst the scoring came the first one for new Crusader Jesse Zaharichuk. A very fitting first Crusader goal as it was against the team that Jesse began his Junior career with in 2013-14.
“It was a cool feeling scoring against my old team, I have a lot of fond memories in that building and town, definitely a special moment.” Said Zaharichuk.
Sherwood Park is hoping, now that the first goal is out of the way, the Zaharichuk can rekindle the scoring output he had in the Western Hockey League this season, 17 Points in 17 Games with Lethbridge and eight of those Goals.
“We've shown him some video, and want him to be better with his puck management, whether, that's on the PP for us or 5 v 5. We'd also like him to be a little bit more selfish at times, and shoot the puck when he has the chance in the scoring areas rather than being a pass first guy.” Says Manah on Zaharichuk.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well for the Crusaders in the second game of the road trip last weekend in Brooks, granted it wasn’t a 9-1 grubbing again, but the Crusaders did fall 5-1.
Both Players and Coaches thought the team had a much better effort than the December 4th game against the Bandits.
“We can definitely take some positives out of the Brooks game. We outshot them 36-32, out chanced them 16-15, and for the most part we skated with them all night. Brooks is the defending champions for a reason, they are a very good hockey club, and for our guys it was good to see us respond in their building and compete much harder than we did in our building a week ago.” Noted Manah.
“It was a tough loss to Brooks, but I thought we played a lot better than the score showed.” Added Zaharichuk.
Wednesday night will be a big opportunity for the Crusaders to distance themselves from the Thunder as they are in a dog fight to stay out of the basement in the North.
With only a two Point lead over Lloydminster for the seventh and final Playoff spot in the Division, the Thunder will be desperate for two Points.
“We know they'll work hard, and play a heavier type game finishing checks, and trying to ware us down.” Says Manah on his expectations for the Thunder.
It’s been a tough month for the Thunder so far as they only have one win in their last six but Sherwood Park knows they cannot take Drayton Valley lightly, and if they can focus on their own doing the Crusaders will be successful Wednesday night.
“Some of the keys we want to focus on for tomorrow is being better on the forecheck with our sticks, and forcing pucks to go the way we want them to along with finishing checks to create turnovers. We also worked on our Power Play entries the last couple days, and supporting the puck better off the attack so we can create a scoring chance for ourselves, or at worst get set up in zone. Lastly, we need to make sure we take care of our own end, and are strong on our backcheck.” Said Manah.
“We need to keep it simple and limit turnovers. If we play a full 60 minutes with our lineup in, we really have a good chance to win.” Added Zaharichuk.
And speaking of lineup, the Crusaders lineup will get a boost Wednesday when Forward Tyler Maltby returns to the lineup after serving his five game suspension. Sherwood Park’s leading scorer slipped in the league scoring race in the last five games, falling from first to fifth with 41 Points on the year, eight back of Matt Forchuk of the Canmore Eagles. Maltby still leads the AJHL with 22 Goals.
-Story By Taylor Medak