Sherwood Park Crusaders VS Spruce Grove Saints Wednesday September 27th, 2017 – 8:00pm
Sherwood Park Crusaders @ Canmore Eagles Thursday September 28th, 2017 – 7:00pm (AJHL Showcase in Camrose, AB)
Sherwood Park Crusaders VS Olds Grizzlys Saturday September 30th, 2017 – 8:00pm (AJHL Showcase in Camrose, AB)
SHERWOOD PARK, AB – The Sherwood Park Crusaders had their first bit of adversity last week as they suffered two losses on home ice, 6-3 to the Camrose Kodiaks and a 4-3 loss in overtime at the hands of the Whitecourt Wolverines. The results weren’t the be all, end all for Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah as his team is still in the evaluation process just four games into the season.
Much more will follow as the team prepares for the annual AJHL Showcase in Camrose, AB.
“I thought we played a pretty good game against Camrose on Thursday. Unfortunately, we spotted them an early lead, and that won't work against good teams. We liked our effort, compete, and we never quit in that game. We had enough scoring chances that we didn't finish on, and at the end of the day their goalie played well for them. On Sunday against Whitecourt, we thought we played pretty decent in the first two periods of the game, especially defensively. However, our decisions with the puck hurt us throughout the entire game. Whether it was turnovers, not executing when we had our chances to score, or not making the appropriate reads.” Says Manah.
The Crusaders got some great efforts up and down the lineup last week, and hopefully those can continue. Specifically, Forward Dylan Stewart has been contributing offensively and proving why he was such an important acquisition for Sherwood Park this offseason.
“Dylan has been exceptional so far to start the season. Since we acquired him he has been a fantastic kid, a good leader on & off the ice, and his on-ice play speaks for itself. He is finding his goal scoring touch again, and has been very good playing with (Ryan) McKinnon and (William) Zapernick. That line has been consistent for us, and Dylan has been a big part of that success.” Noted Manah.
The Edmonton, AB product has points (six) in three straight games, including, goals in back to back contests.
Wednesday night in Sherwood Park, the Crusaders will kick off their AJHL Showcase Week with a pre-showcase affair against the cross town rivals the Spruce Grove Saints.
In what always is a tough battle for the Crusaders, the Saints are under a new regime in Spruce Grove this year.
This past off season saw a change in ownership, new General Manager and Head Coach.
New Head Coach Bram Stephen took over for Michael Ringrose after winning an ACAC title with the MacEwan Griffins last season, and looks like he has his Saints squad in fine order.
Spruce Grove is 3-1 this early season and coming off a 10-1 thumping over the Bonnyville Pontiacs on the weekend. They have the top ranked power play at 36.4% so far through four games.
“We expect Spruce Grove to be a good skating club that moves the puck well, and forces teams to be back on their heels. They have a good mix of guys that can score, hard to play against and strong on the back end not only on defense, but in net as well.” Said Manah on the Saints.
It will be a tough battle in goal as Crusader netminder Sam Burford, who’s been given the reigns at the moment, will be in search of his first AJHL win as he most likely will battle with second year Saint Goaltender Nolan Kent. Kent has posted three wins, a 1.31 G.A.A and a .951 save percentage.
“[Brandon] Vogel has been out with a chest infection since last Thursday. Burford wasn't tested a whole lot in the first two periods against Whitecourt, but did make some good saves in the third period and overtime. He will need to challenge himself to be better than he has been in the previous two games on Wednesday against a good team in Spruce Grove.” Notes Manah.
Every year the scouting community comes to the AJHL Showcase in Camrose to get a great look at the talent the league has to offer.
They will converge on Camrose beginning Thursday, but a bulk of those scouts from the NCAA, University Sport, the NHL and a host of others will be in fact taking in Wednesday’s game in Sherwood Park. A lot of eyes will be on a young Crusader group in the coming days.
“The message will be pretty straight forward. Don't try to do too much out there. Play your game, and do what you do best to help our hockey team win. Our goal is to come out of the Showcase with four points. We haven't had much success there over the past couple years so we need to block out the distractions, and try to treat it like it's like any other game.” Says Manah on the advice his coaching staff will preach to his players.
The showcase opens up for the Crusaders Thursday evening at 7pm as Sherwood Park will take on the Canmore Eagles at the Max McLean Arena, a team the Crusaders have had high scoring contests with over the years.
“We don't have an answer for the high scoring games. Canmore is typically a team that is very good on the PP, and they have a lot of offensive weapons that can score goals. It'll be another tough test for us to start off the Showcase.” Noted Manah.
The Eagles are limping into the showcase week with four straight losses after opening up 2017-18 with two wins.
Sherwood Park will return home for a day off Friday before coming back to the showcase in Camrose and the Max McLean Arena on Saturday night to wrap up the event at 8pm against the Olds Grizzlys.
“We don't know a ton about Olds, but typically in the past they are a team that plays hard, competes every shift, and prides themselves on work ethic. We expect no different on Saturday.” Says Manah.
It’s still in the early stages of the regular season and teams are at the point where they do not know much about their opponent, thus focusing on their game as a key to success.
That’s what the Crusaders will be focusing on this week.
“Keys for us in the next three games will be to stay focused on the task at hand. We don't want to look too far in front of us, and we want to make sure we dial it in and are the better prepared team. Secondly, puck management is still one of the things that our group needs to improve on. We have to take care of the puck at both blue lines (danger zones), and limit teams from counterattacking against us. Lastly, we can't have any passengers. We will need our full group of 20 guys going for all three of these games if we want to have a chance to win.” States Manah.
If the Crusaders can take care of themselves this week, the wins should also take care of themselves.
-Story By Taylor Medak