It was an interesting weekend needless to say for the Sherwood Park Crusaders. Still in control of their Playoff positioning the Crusaders helped their cause by picking up victories in both their games this past weekend. A wild 7-5 victory over the Whitecourt Wolverines and a 4-3 shootout victory over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
“At this time of the year we will take those victories in that fashion. There have been a number of games where we have deserved a better fate.” Says Crusader GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle.
The fate did not look good for the Crusaders Saturday night. 90 seconds into the hockey game they found themselves down 2-0 to Whitecourt.
“I said Come on guys lets regroup and chip away. We don’t want to use the timeout that early, we will need it later when we come back.” Fragle said to himself after Ryan Berlin of the Wolverines scored to make it 2-0 on Saturday.
Sherwood Park never gave up.
“The message between periods was to execute on our chances and we will end up back in this game.” Said Fragle in between periods.
The Crusaders took to Fragles words, even though they had allowed another goal against, and got back into the hockey game with goals 1:22 apart.
Once again however, the Wolverines and Ryan Berlin had other things to say by regaining the 2 goal lead only 48 seconds later.
“We played desperate [in the second] and that’s what it takes this time of year.” Fragle said.
The Crusaders backed that statement up by not going quietly into the intermission.
Goals from Caleb Belter and Nicholas Jones, again 1:22 apart, allowed the Crusaders to regain the momentum heading into the final frame.
It was all Sherwood Park in the 3rd, goals from Andrew Taverner, Bryar Ortynski and Crusader Captain Dillon Massie pulled the Crusaders to a 7-5 victory over the Wolverines.
Sherwood Park had to put the victory behind them and focus on their next contest on the road, against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
The Crusaders headed into Sunday afternoon’s game with a bit of confidence. Them, along with one other AJHL team had only given the Oil Barons a loss on Home ice this season. And the Crusaders came out Sunday afternoon with hopes of delivering another loss to the MOB.
“The 1st period was a solid 20 minutes as we limited their chances.” Fragle said on the start of Sunday afternoon’s game.
The Crusaders had in fact gotten out to a 2-0 lead at one point but could not sustain the 2 goal lead.
Overtime came and solved nothing.
Sean MacTavish was the hero in the shootout, giving the Crusaders their first win in the penalty shot contest this season.
Both teams had grinded one out to the bitter end after coming off emotional wins.
“You could tell both teams played the night before as the game was a bit sloppy and lacked emotion. We found away again to get 2 points.” Said Fragle.
The Oil Barons were entering Sunday’s game after picking up a huge 2-0 win over the Spruce Grove Saints to keep their aspirations of a 1st round bye alive heading into the Playoffs.
The Weekend wasn’t capped off they way the Crusaders had hoped. The AJHL’s league awards were handed out with a Crusader not winning an award for the first time in two seasons.
Crusader Forward Nicholas Jone fell short in taking home the Alberta Old Time Hockey Players Trophy as the AJHL MVP and being the 3rd Crusader in 4 years to receive the honor.
“We are biased so of course we would have like to see him win but the other 3 MVP nominee’s are exceptional players in their own right.” Fragle noted.
Defenseman Trey Philips of the Canmore Eagles was named the leagues MVP.
There is one award that has yet to be handed out that a couple of Crusaders are vying for.
Forwards Nicholas Jones and Sean MacTavish of the Crusaders are in the running for the Ernie Love Trophy as Top Scorer in the AJHL. Both Jones and MacTavish are 2 points back of Whitecourt Wolverines Forward Colten Mayor, who had a decent night on Saturday as well, for tops in the league’s scoring race.
With 2 games remaining the Crusaders have lots to play for.
They need a single point or a Bonnyville loss to clinch home ice advantage in the first round of the Playoffs. As well, Sherwood Park can still catch Lloydminster for 3rd spot in the North Division. The Crusaders trail the Bobcats by 2 points with only 2 games remaining, while Lloydminster has 3 games left in the AJHL regular season.
It will all be interesting to see what unfolds in the final 2 games for the Crusaders on the road versus Spruce Grove and Grande Prairie.