SHERWOOD PARK, AB: The Sherwood Park Crusaders welcomed the Bonnyville Pontiacs into the Sherwood Park Arena for the third matchup of eight in this first cohort of the AJHL restart. This game saw the same two goalies from last Saturday’s game get the nod in goal, as Matthew Hennessey got his second consecutive start and Carson Cherepak started a third straight game for the Crusaders.
The game got off to a strong start for Sherwood Park, who used a strong forecheck and incredible transitional play to take a 3-0 lead in the first period. Liam Hughes scored his first AJHL goal, giving Sherwood Park the advantage just six minutes into the game. Loeden Schaufler threw the puck towards goal, which handcuffed Hennessey, allowing Hughes to poke home the rebound. Sherwood Park doubled their lead four minutes later when Tanner Fincaryk found Nick Magis on a three-on-two rush, who ripped a shot into the top left corner, giving the Crusaders a 2-0 lead. The third goal came four minutes after the second, as Magis found Hughes with a pass to give the Crusaders rookie and partial break. Hughes made no mistake, walking in and going blocker side on Hennessey to give Sherwood Park a three-goal lead heading into the second period. Shots were 14-10 in favour of the Crusaders.
The second period started much better for Bonnyville as they began to use their size to dislodge the Crusaders from the puck. The continued pressure in the Crusaders zone would eventually lead to something for the Pontiacs. A turnover in behind the Crusaders net was quickly thrown out front by Wyatt Cook, who found Justin Stathopoulos to cut the Crusaders lead to two. However, the quick strike-ability of the Crusaders was shown shortly after that, as Vincent Scott scored his third goal in his last two games, just 30 seconds after the Pontiacs goal. Scott walked in on a two on 1, opted to shoot blocker side and found the back of the net to extend the Crusaders lead to 4-1. That would spell the end of the night for Hennessey, who left after allowing four-goal on 17 shots. Bradley Mistol took his place in the Bonnyville net, making his first AJHL appearance. The goalie change seemed to wake up the Pontiacs a little bit, as they got back to a hard forechecking game and managed to draw a tripping penalty. The Bonnyville power play came into this one without a goal this season, but it wouldn’t last much longer. Stathopoulos scored his second of the period on a similar shot to Magis to cut the lead to 4-2, heading into the final frame. Shots were evened up after the second, 27-27.
The third period offered the Crusaders a chance to put the game away early on, as Wyatt Cook took a double-minor for high sticking, giving Sherwood Park four minutes of power-play time with which to work. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, it ended up being a momentum builder for the Pontiacs. Less than a minute after the penalty expired, Matthew Gerke scored on Cherepak from a sharp angle, cutting the lead down to one. Bonnyville seemed to smell an equalizer as they continued the pressure for the next four minutes until Brett Ursulak was called for roughing, sending Bonnyville to the power play. Just like it was for Bonnyville, though, the penalty kill ended up being the momentum swing for Sherwood Park, as Magis scored his second goal of the game short-handed to all but put this game to bed for the Crusaders. Cherepak shut down the Pontiacs the rest of the way, and Sherwood Park held onto win their second game in a row. Carson Cherepak earned the win for Sherwood Park, stopping 38 shots in the game. Matthew Hennessey picks up the loss, allowing four goals on 17 shots, while Bradley Mistol stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced in a solid relief appearance.
They’ll go back at it again tonight at the RJ Lalonde Arena. Fans can catch the game live at Average Joe’s in Sherwood Park at 7:00 p.m.
Story by Zach Marks