Sherwood Park Crusaders (35-18-2) @ Spruce Grove Saints (45-7-3) February 20th, 2016 – 7:00 PM
Media: AJHL Web TV
As the 2015-16 Regular Season draws to a close, so do the season series’, obviously, and the season series between the Sherwood Park Crusaders and Spruce Grove Saints will close Saturday night at the Grant Fuhr Arena.
Spruce Grove is 4-1-0 against Sherwood Park, however, no team has won by more than two goals and three of the five matchups have been decided by a single goal.
The lone victory over the Saints came on December 19th in Spruce Grove as the Crusaders went into the holiday break with a 3-1 win.
Sherwood Park Goaltender made 38 Saves in the December 19th victory and if he get’s the start Saturday night, will be coming a huge 36 Save performance in a 2-1 Win over Lloydminster this past Wednesday.
“It’s kind of my job to stop pucks, so the more I stop it’s just better for everyone.” Chuckles Klassen.
The Sherwood Park Native appeared in his 99th career game on Wednesday and was busy early on stopping all 19 shots he faced in the first period.
“If you get a bunch of shots early on it definitely gets you in [the game].” Added the veteran netminder.
The Crusaders will need to come out with a much stronger start on the road Saturday night after the barrage of shots they allowed from the Bobcats could have been reminiscent of last Saturday’s debacle against Bonnyville had it not been for Klassen.
“We’re going to [go] in there hungry, we’re going to treat it like a playoff game, there’s going to be lots of intensity. We are going to try and build off of Wednesday’s win.” Added Klassen.
At the moment for the Crusaders building momentum is key in the final five games. The team stands alone in fifth place and has a slim chance to finish fourth but would need tons of help.
Their first round opponent is also up in the air, that aspect, even more, adds to the fact that the team will concentrate on their game and only their game in preparation for the Playoffs.
The matchup Saturday night in Spruce Grove will be a good test for Sherwood Park and they will look to repeat some of the things they did well on December 19th to replicate a victory.
In that game they were able to score first, the team that has scored first in the season series is 4-1.
They won the Special Teams battle, 25% on the Power Play and killing off all five Spruce Grove man advantages.
Consistency has always been key when playing the Saints and lapses in the Crusaders game like we saw January 2nd when Spruce Grove scored three goals in a span of just under three minutes back on January 2nd, will not result into victories.
Sherwood Park did the Saints a favor on Wednesday by defeating the Bobcats which allowed Spruce Grove to clinch the Viterra North Division for the eighth straight season. Spruce Grove is still trying to lock down first place overall as they sit with 93 Points, only one ahead of the South leaders, the Brooks Bandits.
As mentioned it would take nothing short of a miracle for the Crusaders to get that final home Playoff spot in the Division. Winning out and help from a few teams would allow Sherwood Park climb into that fourth spot. But with a victory Saturday night in Spruce Grove would bode well for the confidence on the road as it looks like that where they will start the Gas Drive Cup Playoffs.
Players to watch: For the Crusaders, Goaltender Zac Klassen should get the start Saturday, thus appearing in his 100th AJHL game and having played extremely well last time in Spruce Grove there, there will be lots of incentive to pick up his 20th victory of the season. Forward Cameron Brezinski continues to roll, 13 Points in seven Games for the 20 year old. AJHL leading scorer and Forward Ryan Kruper is riding a six game Point streak. For the Saints, Goaltender Matthew Murray recently committed to the University of Masschusetts and has won six of his last eight starts. Forward Tyler Busch, future teammate of Tyler Maltby at Arizona State, leads the Saints with 61 Points while Forward Brandon Biro leads the team with 28 Goals.
-Story By Taylor Medak