With 12 games remaining in the AJHL’s regular season the Sherwood Park Crusaders are looking for consistency in their game and since the start of the new year that consistency has been starting to show. Although coming off a split in their weekend games, the Crusaders look to carry momentum in their favor going into Wednesday night’s contest at the Grant Fuhr Arena against the Spruce Grove Saints.
Sherwood Park is coming off a 3-2 win over the Canmore Eagles Saturday night on the road. The night before they were shutout by the Oilers in Okotoks, 4-0.
“We had 5 to 6 chances we need to execute on when the game was 2 to 0 and that would have changed the game.” Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle said.
Sherwood Park only allowed 1 goal on even strength and 2 Power Play goals against plus an empty net goal in the loss to Okotoks. The Crusaders were also 0 for 3 with the Man Advantage.
The next night against the Canmore Eagles, the Crusaders were able to get the puck in the net. Caleb Belter responded to the Eagles opening goal, then on the Power Play over a minute later, Nicholas Jones gave the Crusaders their first lead of the weekend.
“We had a good response after getting down early. Never felt in control as we took 12 minor penalties so large portion of the game we were on the kill.” Fragle said of the game Saturday night.
Nicholas Jones added the game winner via the Power Play once again, this time in the 3rd period.
“We made quick decisions and moved the puck very well on the Power Play Saturday compared to Friday.” Fragle said on his team’s execution on the Man Advantage.
Fragle mentioned his team taking 12 minor penalties, the Crusaders Special Teams certainly aided in the victory, and primarily on the Penalty Kill as Canmore was 1 for 12 on the Power Play.
“Tommy Nixon was solid for us. He was at his best on the Penalty Kill.” Said Fragle of his Goaltender, who made 40 saves for his 16th win of the season.
The Crusaders hope Nixon can carry his stellar play into Wednesday’s game against the Spruce Grove Saints.
The Saints are coming into Wednesday night’s game on a bit of a lull. They’ve lost 2 games in a row and are now a point back of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons for first place in the North Division. Spruce Grove also fell 4 spots in the CJHL National Rankings to sit 5 in the nation. Wednesday’s game also marks the return of Saints Head Coach Jason McKee who had been suspended 2 games after an incident during the end of a game versus the Whitecourt Wolverines last week. The Saints a will be without former Crusader Jake Mykitiuk who was suspended 7 games for his involvement in the incident against Whitecourt. Forward Park MacKay returns to the Saints lineup after serving 2 games stemming from the game against Whitecourt.
The Saints, as good they have been all year, could be coming into this game a little fragile as their group has faced miniscule adversity all season long.
“We have to play a smart and structured game and as well limit our mistakes.” Fragle says on the keys going up against a team that has had it’s struggles of late.
Believe it or not the Crusaders lead the season series with a record of 2-1-1 and with a regulation win the Crusaders would win the season series and it would boast well for the confidence if the 2 teams met in either the Division Semi-Finals or Finals.
“We have managed pucks well and have cashed in on our opportunities and all 4 games have been close so we wouldn't expect anything different when playing a structured team like Spruce Grove.” Said Fragle on the season series.
The season series has been very close between both teams as every game has been a margin of victory by no more than 2 goals with one of them ending in Overtime.
The Crusaders visit to Spruce Grove marks the second time they have played at the Grant Fuhr Arena this season. The final regular season game between the 2 clubs will be Friday February 28th in Spruce Grove.
Sherwood Park returns home Friday night to take on the Lloydminster Bobcats. The Crusaders head into Wednesday’s action 2 points back of the Bobcats for 3rd place in the North Division and hold the tie breaker against the Bobcats with more regulation wins.