Crusaders Look to Tame Dragons

Sherwood Park Crusaders (6-4-1) VS Drumheller Dragons (7-3-1) Friday October 13th, 2017 – 7:00pm

Media: Crusaders Hockey on AJHL WebTV; Dragons Radio Network

SHERWOOD PARK, AB – The Sherwood Park Crusaders hope that this past Wednesday was not a flash in the pan as they host the Drumheller Dragons Friday night at the Sherwood Park Arena.

The Crusaders defeated the Drayton Valley Thunder 8-1 on the road Wednesday night, and were able to get out of a bit of a funk when it comes to their power play, going 3 for 5 and snapping a 0 for 10 spell.

“Thought we played a pretty solid game from start to finish.  We really liked our start jumping on them early and throwing 22 pucks towards the net in the first period alone.  That was a big key for us as we've been stressing to the guys that we need to shoot more to give ourselves more of an opportunity to score.”  Said Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.

Points were a plenty Wednesday night, Forwards Ty Readman and rookie William Zapernick led the way with three.  Readman with three assists and Zapernick with a pair of goals and one assist.

The pair were on a line together with Merritt Oszytko.

“We gave William an opportunity to play on the top line with Readman and Oszytko.  He is an intelligent player, and we never question his work ethic on any given night.  He's one of the hardest working guys up front, and you know what you'll get from him every night.  Was good to see him break through on the score sheet.”  Added Manah.

“It’s honestly a treat playing with those two guys.  I try my best to get them the puck and get open, because I know they will find me.  I’m just trying to help the team any way I can and hopefully I can get hot right now.”  Says Zapernick on playing with Oszytko and Readman.

Wednesday was also a night where a trio of Crusader rookies scored their first AJHL goal, Defenseman Blair Bush, Forwards Deklan Whillans and Eric Blanchette found twine for the first time.

“My first [AJHL] goal was a great feeling knowing how hard it is to score in this league.  My teammates joked around a lot with me about it and it was a great experience.”  Says Blanchette.

“Wednesday’s game was a hard fought road win, which is always hard to do.  We got the early goals and our team just kept the ball rolling for the rest of the game.  It’s always nice to win by those margins and we needed it to get back into a nice spot [in the standings].”  Added Blanchette.

Heading into Friday’s matchup against Drumheller, the Crusaders sit in fifth place in the Viterra North Division with 11 points.  A win would allow them to keep pace in the division as there will be some movement with Spruce Grove and Whitecourt playing tonight.

The Dragons are off to a great start in 2017-18 with a record of 7-3-1 the sit in second in the Viterra South Division with 15 points under new GM and Head Coach Kevin Hasselberg.  They have the south’s second best road record at 4-1-0.

“We know they can skate, they have a deep forward core up front, and they compete extremely hard.  Will be a big test for us as a group to see where we are on the measuring stick, and if we are ready to step up in tough games like tonight will be.”  Said Manah on the Dragons.

Drumheller has a potent offensive attack led by veteran Forward Jordan Taupert, who comes into Friday night’s game tied with Crusaders Forward Ty Readman and two others with 18 points for third in league scoring.

“Awareness of when he's on the ice.  Smaller guy, but has a ton of skill and is their go to guy up front.  We'll have to be good on our matchups against him.  Defensemen will have to have a tight gap, not allow him to have time and space, play the body on him, and any chance our forwards get to help on the backcheck and apply back pressure to him that will make his life tougher to hang on to the puck.”  Manah noted.

The Dragons will also pose a threat on the defensive side of things, especially in goal.  The team is fourth best when it comes to goals allowed (30) and expected started Hunter Virostek is having a great start to his sophomore year. 

The Turner Valley, AB product is tied for second in the AJHL with seven wins, third with a goals against average of 1.98 (only three Goalies have a G.A.A under 2) and third in save percentage with a .927.

“Virostek is a solid tender for them in the pipes.  We aren't going to re-invent the wheel against him.  It's more of what our game plan was on Wednesday and that is to get as many pucks to the net as possible.  We have to force him to make difficult saves, fight through traffic, and if we can shoot smart for second and third opportunities that'll make him uncomfortable in the blue paint.  Then it's up to our guys to get the net and find ways of putting it behind him.”  Says Manah.

The Crusaders know they will be in tough Friday night and that is being echoed by the younger players.

“Drumheller is going to be a very good team so we’re going to need to get pucks behind there defensemen and move our feet.  We will also need to stay structured if we want a good chance to win this game.”  Said Eric Blanchette.

“We need to make sure we come out flying.  Play a team game while being the physical, hungrier team and focus on bearing down on our chances.  If we do that I know we will put ourselves in a great spot to get the win.”  Added William Zapernick.

The Crusaders will certainly want to empty the tank as Friday’s game is their only match of the weekend and do not play until Wednesday when they host the Lloydminster Bobcats.

-Story by Taylor Medak