It wasn’t the start to the 2015 calendar year the Crusaders were looking for last Saturday when they fell to the Lloydminster Bobcats 3-1 on home ice. The Crusaders got off to a poor start allowing the first goal on the first shot 52 seconds into the hockey game. The Crusaders were forced to chase the game the remaining 59 minutes and seven seconds, Reid Bosse would tie the game in the 2nd period but it was short lived when the Bobcats scored the eventual game winner a minute and 25 seconds into the 3rd period on the Power Play.
“We beat ourselves that game, we spent a lot of time in the box and in the 3rd period we came out and didn’t have the drive, we shot ourselves in the foot with stick penalties and like I said we beat ourselves more than Lloydminster beat us.” Says Forward Daniel Wray who had three goals in two games leading up to the game against Lloydminster this past Saturday.
In parts in the game, the Crusaders had their chances. Arthur Gordon hit a goal post and his line with Ryan Kruper and Tyler Maltby sustained pressure in the offensive zone but unfortunately could not generate anything past Bobcats Goaltender Devin Green.
The Crusaders will hit the reset button on Wednesday when they travel to a place where they haven’t been to since September. Three of the four games played against the Whitecourt Wolverines have been at the Sherwood Park Arena where the Crusaders picked up 5-4, 4-3 and 6-5 victories. It has been a home team series between the Crusaders and Wolverines with Whitecourt picking up a 4-1 win in the Crusaders only visit to the Scott Safety Center on September 17th.
For sure the games have been entertaining, but the Crusaders don’t want to get into a track meet with the Wolverines, instead, they want to play the type of game that helped the Crusaders reach as far as second place in the Viterra North Division at several points earlier in the 2014-15 season.
“When we were in second place we were really known for our defensive play. We were a shutdown Defensive core, our Forwards were blocking shots, we were doing real good defensively and not giving up much.” Noted Wray as he and the Crusaders begin a week with games against the Wolverines, Olds Grizzlys and Spruce Grove Saints.
The Crusaders will in turn also have to score goals to win the hockey game, obviously. But Wray believes that a certain style of scoring can be applied on ice that has been very effective in his recent success now with three goals in three games.
“We generate goals from rolling off the wall, getting shot through from the point with traffic in front, gritty goals. We are a real lunch bucket team, if we keep that mentality of locking it down on defense and then crash the net and get dirty goals I think we will be fine going into the three games this week.” Adds Wray.
It will be a tough test this week for the Crusaders as each battle will pose an even tougher challenge to the next.
Although the Crusaders have won three out of four games against the Wolverines this year, all wins have been by a goal. Wolverine players such as leading scorer John Mullally has four points in the four games against Sherwood Park this season and can be a threat whenever he is out on the ice.
Friday the Crusaders travel to Olds where the Grizzlys have gone 5-3-2 in their last 10 which has included victories over Camrose, Okotoks and Lloydminster. The Grizzlys are a much different team from when the Crusaders last saw them in September when they hammered Olds 6-2.
And lastly this week, the toughest test of the season when the Spruce Grove Saints make their final visit to the Sherwood Park Arena, the Crusaders are 1-2 against their cross town rival in 2014-15. The Saints head into this week sitting first in the entire AJHL with 67 points and are 9-1-0 in their last 10 and winning six games in a row.
Sherwood Park sits fourth in the Viterra North Division with 44 points in 42 Games Played heading into Wednesday. They trail Fort McMurray by eight points for third place, Lloydminster by nine for second, Spruce Grove is in first with, as mentioned, 67 points.
-Story By Taylor Medak