The Playoff picture will become clearer after this weekend, not only for the Sherwood Park Crusaders but the rest of the North Division as well. With 4 games remaining the Crusaders are in control of where they will finish when it comes to either getting home ice advantage or starting on the road for the first round of the playoffs. The ideal position of third place is much in the realm of possibility, however, the Crusaders will need help. The help will hopefully be coming from the team that handled Sherwood Park Wednesday night, the Grande Prairie Storm.
The 8th place team that is still alive in the playoff race will be looking to build off their 6-3 victory over the Crusaders and play with the same effort when they battle the Lloydminster Bobcats Friday night. The Crusaders hope the Storm can do to the Bobcats what they did to them Wednesday night. Lloydminster sits 3 points up, with 61, on the Crusaders for 3rd spot in the North Division.
Sherwood Park will look to avoid a repeat performance of Wednesday night when they take on the Whitecourt Wolverines in the final home game of the regular season Saturday night. An early 3-1 deficit and a hot Nick Kulmanovsky deterred the Crusaders from picking up their 28th win of the season on Wednesday.
“I was disappointed in our start, physical game and decision making.” Says Crusader GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle.
The Crusaders were constantly playing catch up to the Storm, who were led offensively by Jade McMullen’s Hat Trick and defensively by the defending AJHL Goaltender of The Year.
“Every time we scored they answered back quickly. They gained momentum from the play of [Kulmanovsky].” Fragle said.
It was a frustrating night for the Crusaders as they had left an opportunity on the table to make up ground on Lloydminster as now Sherwood Park needs at least 2 wins in their final 4 games and for the Bobcats to lose out in their final 4 games to get to third in the division.
“There was major disappointment in our breakdowns, lack of compete and our team choices.” Fragle said to his team after the 6-3 Wednesday loss.
The opportunity to pick 2 wins is available this weekend for Sherwood Park.
Saturday night the Whitecourt Wolverines make their final visit of the regular season to the Sherwood Park Arena. The Crusaders have played the Wolverines well this season and have an opportunity to sweep Wolverines at home this year with a win. The Crusaders will look to counter act the fast paced game of the Wolverines by doing much of the same. Pushing the pace will be one of Fragle’s messages to his players going into Saturday night.
The Crusaders do have to be careful with the run and gun style of offense of the Wolverines, led by 20 year old who is 4th in league scoring with 66 points going into Friday, Colten Mayor.
“We need to be playing our game with structure and gaining more momentum from our play.” Fragle added on defending the Wolverines.
The probability of a high scoring game looks like it could be in favor of that happening as 3 of the top 4 scorers in the AJHL are involved in this game.
Sean MacTavish and Nicholas Jones are ahead of Mayor in the scoring race with 69 and 68 points respectively.
However, the last time the Wolverines came to Sherwood Park, it was a 3-0 shutout for the Cru. So expect anything when these two teams clash.
The Crusaders have one more task after Saturday night’s game against Whitecourt. They will travel Saturday night to Fort McMurray in preparation for a Sunday afternoon battle against the Oil Barons.
The game is a re-scheduled one from January 12th when the Crusaders were unable to travel due to poor highway conditions.
The final meeting between the Crusaders and Oil Barons will be a tough test for Sherwood Park, but one they can pass.
It was only 2 weeks ago when the Crusaders picked up a 4-3 victory over the Oil Barons on the road in the first of 2 games in Fort McMurray on the 8th of February.
“We need to be committed to playing with and for each other. The only way you win there is if you play a team game.” Said Fragle on playing in Fort McMurray.
For tickets to the Crusaders final home game of the Regular Season, please call the Crusaders office at 780-417-1175.