Sherwood Park Crusaders (16-17-2) @ Fort McMurray Oil Barons (25-5-3) Friday December 29th, 2017 – 7:30pm
Sherwood Park Crusaders (16-17-2)* @ Fort McMurray Oil Barons (25-5-3)* Saturday December 30th, 2017 – 7:30pm
Media: AJHL WebTV; Oil Barons Radio Network
*record as of December 29th
SHERWOOD PARK, AB – It’s back to work for the Sherwood Park Crusaders as they resume regular season play Friday night in Fort McMurray, for the first of back to back games against the Oil Barons this weekend on the road.
Prior to the Crusaders week long Christmas break, the team lost their final game before their holiday, 4-2 on the road in Spruce Grove against the Saints.
“I thought we were average last Wednesday. We had some good efforts from certain guys, but thought other guys didn't step up in a big game like that. We didn't work as hard as they did, they were more engaged, and simply won the majority of the races to pucks. That was having us chase the game all night.” Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
It was the closest contest the Crusaders have had in 2017-18 against the Saints, even leading at one point in the game but ultimately falling when it mattered most.
The story in that game was the play of Crusader Goaltender Brandon Vogel, who made 49 saves on 53 shots in the loss.
“He was outstanding last game, and he has been all season for us. That's credit to him though. He works hard on and off the ice, prepares himself the right way, and has been gaining valuable experience every game he dresses in.” Notes Manah on the play of his Goaltender.
Sherwood Park returned to practice on Wednesday, and with only a few days to prepare for the Oil Barons, the Crusaders got right to work.
“The focus was to really just review as much as we can in preparation for Fort McMurray. We will just focus on what we need to accomplish, and prepare ourselves accordingly. The first day back on the ice is to get the guys back into the swing of things, it was more structured on day two.” Says Manah.
The Crusaders will take on an Oil Baron team that, prior to the break, lost two in a row on a southern road trip.
Fort McMurray is tied with Spruce Grove for first in the Viterra North Division with 53 Points and hope they can pick up their third win of the season over the Crusaders.
The Oil Barons have won both games played against the Crusaders this season, a 5-4 win on October 21st at home and a 5-3 come from behind victory in Sherwood Park on November 3rd.
The November 3rd game was the debut of Ryan Cox for the Crusaders, the former Oil Baron was traded for Forward Merritt Oszytko.
Friday’s game will be the second game for each player against their former squad.
The trade has appeared to work well for both teams, Cox has 15 goals an five assists in 18 games with Sherwood Park, while Osztko has five goals and four assists in nine games with the Oil Barons.
Sherwood Park knows they are in tough the next few days against Fort McMurray, the Oil Barons are a league best 13-0-1 at the Casman Centre so far this season.
Adam Manah is optimistic however, as his team has played well against the Oil Barons in the two previous meetings.
“Thought we've been in both games against them so far. The second game we felt we maybe deserved better after letting a 3-0 lead slip. That's credit to them though as well. They have a veteran, experienced lineup that knows how to play in big games, and are never out of a game even when it looks like they might be. It's going to be another very challenging weekend for our group.”
Sitting in fifth place with 34 points, Sherwood Park certainly has the capability of picking up points this weekend against the Oil Barons and have an opportunity to distance themselves in the standings from the Bonnyville Pontiacs, who are idle until the new year.
The group is 4-1-0 in their last five and Head Coach Manah knows that if the group can control what they can control, they could be successful against Fort McMurray.
“We know it's a difficult weekend, but for us we just need to focus on competing hard and getting our effort level back to where it needs to be. We need guys to sacrifice the body whether it's to block a shot, take a hit, and really get back to doing the little things. That's why we were successful on our four-game winning streak. It'll be about work ethic, and paying the price this weekend in order to have success.”
-Story by Taylor Medak