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Crusaders Travel To Fort McMurray

Sherwood Park Crusaders (24-14-2) @ Fort McMurray Oil Barons (6-28-6) January 8th, 2016 – 8:00 PM

Media: Oil Barons Radio Network and AJHL Web TV

Sherwood Park Crusaders (24-14-2)* @ Fort McMurray Oil Barons (6-28-6) January 9th, 2016 – 8:00 PM

Media: Oil Barons Radio Network and AJHL Web TV

*record as of January 8th

Perhaps some time on the road is just what the Sherwood Park Crusaders need to regain the swagger they had in November.  They have yet to win since returning from the Christmas break, are 3-7-0 in their last 10 and have been outscored 10-6 in the new year.

The most recent loss came Wednesday night at the Sherwood Park Arena, 5-2 at the hands of the Whitecourt Wolverines.
For the third straight game, the Crusaders scored first but unfortunately could no carry the momentum.

“We were undisciplined and lacked energy.”  Says Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle.

Sherwood Park took four minor penalties in the first period and allowed two goals on 10 opportunities for the Wolverines.

“We can’t win playing like that!” An adamant Fragle said.

The Crusaders didn’t help their cause by going 0/6 on the Man Advantage, they negated three of them by taking penalties.

“We were reluctant to shoot the puck on those opportunities.”  Adds Fragle.

The Crusaders continue to have middle of the pack Special Teams, 11th on the Power Play and eight overall on the Penalty Kill.  They are second in the league however with seven Short Handed Goals.

Heading into the weekend the Crusaders Power Play should have opportunities to regain some confidence as they travel to Fort McMurray for the second and third time this season, the Oil Barons are 13th in the AJHL on the PK at the Casman Center.  Sherwood Park is eight on the PP when on the road.

For a team that was thought to be right out of the playoff mix as are the Calgary Mustangs in the South Division, the Oil Barons are in a dog fight with the Grande Prairie Storm for the final playoff spot in the North Division.  Fort McMurray is sitting at six wins and 18 Points, one behind Grande Prairie.

“They are a strong team at home that plays the right way, regardless of their record.  We will be tested.”  Said Fragle.

The first meeting between these two teams in Fort McMurray saw the Crusaders edge out the Oil Barons 3-2 on October 21st.  All scoring came in the third period and the game winner from Defenseman Chris McKay.

“Good starts are key in their building, we need to have controlled energy and be discipline.”  Fragle says on going up against Fort McMurray.

Sherwood Park has had good starts in terms of scoring in the new year, but it will be the latter of Fragle’s statement to ensure victory at the Casman Center this weekend.

Two victories are not out of the question for the Crusaders, and perhaps that should be the expectation for Sherwood Park who sit at 50 Points and 24 Wins.  The Crusaders are on an island of their own called fifth place.  16 Points ahead of Drayton Valley, 10 behind Lloydminster, who hold the final home ice slot for the first round of the playoffs.  If the Crusaders are to return to the land of home ice, four points are a must this weekend.

This weekend may also be some players’ final attempt at convincing Coach Fragle at keeping them with the Crusaders.  The CJHL/AJHL January 10th Trade Deadline is a few days away.  Sherwood Park has made some excellent transactions this season and with the final future consideration remaining from the Nicholas Jones deal, Fragle has the chips to make a deal.

“We are looking to add pieces that can help us, we will be active.”

The Oil Barons got a head start on the trade front this week, as they dealt Goaltender Ravi Dattani to the Spruce Grove Saints for Future Consideratios.  The veteran netminder was acquired by Fort McMurray in the offseason from the Calgary Mustangs, the Calgary, AB Native appeared in 31 Games for the Oil Barons.

Players to watchFor the Crusaders, Forward Devon McAndrews has scored in two straight games, can he continue the offensive output?…For the Oil Barons, it looks like it is Goaltender Eric Szudor’s crease, the rookie from Edmonton, AB has yet to win in 12 Games Played but has faired well against the Crusaders, losing 2-1 in the Pre Season and 3-2 in October on home ice making 37 Saves…Rookie Forward Ben Sharf leads the team in scoring with 22 Points and 10 Goals.

-Story By Taylor Medak