It’s only fitting that one of the AJHL’s biggest rivalries takes the stage on the day of love. The Sherwood Park Crusaders open up their family day weekend schedule with a Valentines Day games against the Bonnyville Pontiacs where certainly no love is lost between these 2 clubs.
The Crusaders have had all week to prepare for this game Friday night at the Sherwood Park Arena, hoping to bring some momentum from last weekend in Fort McMurray.
“It’s been a solid week of practice and we all know it’s a big game.” Says Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle on the final meeting between his club and the Bonnyville Pontiacs.
Friday night could be a high scoring affair as oppose to the last time the 2 clubs met at the Sherwood Park Arena when the Pontiacs shutout the Crusaders 1-0. 3 of the top 6 scorers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League will be playing in the game Friday night. Sean Mactavish and Nicholas Jones are 2nd and 3rd in the league with 66 and 65 points respectively, while Spencer Foo of the Pontiacs is 6th with 60 points.
One of the biggest keys Friday night will be containing Foo.
“We need to get the right match ups and take away his time and space.” Says Fragle on Foo.
Although the Crusaders came from behind to win last Friday in Fort McMurray, they were down in the 2nd game in Fort Mcmurray last weekend and was unable to catch up to the Oil Barons. Part of the Crusaders success this year has been playing with a lead and getting the first goal.
“Good starts are key for every team and were no different.” Fragle added.
Friday night’s game could be a preview of the 1st round of the Playoffs. If the season had ended today Sherwood Park would once again draw the Pontiacs in the 1st round, it potentially could be the 5th time in 7 years the North Division rivals could meet in the post season.
The Crusaders sit with 54 points and with a win and a Lloydminster loss could get back into 3rd place in the North. Bonnyville trails the Crusaders by 2 points and even if they do get the victory, Sherwood Park would remain in 4th and hold on to a home ice advantage spot if the playoffs started after Friday’s game.
However, the post season does not begin until March.
The Crusaders wrap up their Family Day weekend with a road trip to Drayton Valley Monday afternoon.
The Crusaders make their final trip to Drayton Valley Monday and it will mark the first time they are at the Omniplex since getting shutout 5-0 back on October 25th.
The Crusaders lead the season series 3-2, but the Thunder have been on a tear of late going 6-1 in their last 7.
“They’ve had great goaltending of late, improved structure and team buy in.” Fragle said on the Thunder.
The team buy in has been evident in the Thunder’s play, the 2 teams meet for the 2nd time in a month after a gritty 2-1 victory by the Cru at the Sherwood Park Arena.
Fragle knows his team must play perfect going up against a hot team like Drayton Valley.
“We need structure in our game and strive for a mistake free hockey game.”