Sherwood Park Crusaders (38-19-2) VS Whitecourt Wolverines (42-11-6) Friday March 4th, 2016 – 7:00 PM
With one game remaining for both the Sherwood Park Crusaders and the Whitecourt Wolverines, there is a lot on the table up for grabs for the team who can pick up a Win in regulation, in both team’s final game of 2015-16 on Friday night in Sherwood Park.
On the Crusaders side of things, first, the team will look to rebound after one of the weirdest games on the 15-16 campaign, one would have thought it may have occurred against the Drayton Valley Thunder.
No, there were no line brawls or such things like that, but the Crusaders came out guns a blazing in Camrose on Tuesday. After allowing the games opening goal Forward Cameron Brezinski led the charge by picking up a hat trick, giving Sherwood Park a 4-1 lead after the first period against the Kodiaks.
The game completely flipped around for the next 40 minutes with Camrose netting seven unanswered goals to take the game 8-4, giving the Crusaders a 17-12-1 record on the road in 2015-16.
“The most disappointing thing about [Tuesday’s] loss was how bad we were defensively.” Says a critical Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle.
“We completely abandoned our commitment to defensive zone, really disappointing because we had been playing so good defensively.” Added Fragle.
With Brezinski getting the Hat Trick there was another bright spot with Forward Cole Gammer scoring the other Sherwood Park goal. The second year Crusader has seen limited action this season battling a plethora of injuries but was able to score second of the season, his first since December 11th.
“He needed it as he has been getting a lot of chances, we knew it would come and told him to start worrying when the opportunities go away.” Noted Fragle.
Heading into the Post Season, the Crusaders will hope Gammer can rekindle some of the offensive touch from last season that saw the then rookie score 17 Goals.
Barring a career night, exceeding four Points, and for a couple of players to go pointless this weekend, the incredible of run of Forward Ryan Kruper in 2015-16 will most likely see him not winning the Ernie Love trophy as the league’s Top Scorer.
Kruper heads into Friday’s contest with 76 Points, two behind the Olds Grizzlys Chase Olsen for second and four behind Olsen’s teammate Wyatt Noskey for first. Olds has two games remaining this Regular Season.
In a year where the Crusaders will finish fifth in the Viterra North Division for the second straight season you’d be hard pressed to believe that it is the best year for Sherwood Park under GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle in terms of wins with 38, one better than the 37 in 2011-12. However, with a Win or Overtime Loss, it would give Fragle most Wins and most Points during his tenure with the Crusaders. Had Sherwood Park finished with this many Points last season, they would’ve finished in second place.
It’s been that kind of year in the Viterra North Division where the top four teams have been that much better in the standings than the Crusaders, but Sherwood Park hasn’t backed down from the any of those teams. With the exception of Spruce Grove, the Crusaders with a win tonight can have winning records against the second, third and fourth place teams.
They are 2-2-1 against the Wolverines this season.
What can bode well for Sherwood Park’s confidence heading into the Post Season is their record against potential First Round opponents. They are a combined 8-3-1 against the Bonnyville Pontiacs and the Lloydminster Bobcats this season. It is most likely we will see the Crusaders matchup against the Pontiacs for the sixth time in the last eight years, as Lloydminster only needs a single point in their final two games this weekend to get third spot in the Division.
As mentioned there is also a lot to play for from the Wolverines side of things.
Much like Sherwood Park, Whitecourt comes into Friday’s game coming off a loss where they allowed seven unanswered goals in a 7-0 loss to Bonnyville on Wednesday.
The Wolverines, who have had their best season in Whitecourt since moving from St. Albert, basically need a win in regulation combined with a Lloydminster loss in the Bobcats final two games to clinch second spot in the Division. If they fall to Sherwood Park, Whitecourt will have to hope for Lloydminster to lose out or a combined Overtime Win and Regulation loss, or two Overtime losses.
The Crusaders and Wolverines last clashed on January 6th in Sherwood Park with Whitecourt scoring four unanswered goals after the Crusaders got out two 2-1 lead in the second half of the first Period, the Wolverines also scored two goals on the Power Play in that 5-2 Win.
“They play a fast, skilled and structured game.” Notes Fragle on going up against Whitecourt.
Players to watch: For the Crusaders, Forward Cameron Brezinski most likely felt a little snubbed on not being named the AJHL Player of The Month as it went to teammate Tyler Maltby. Brezinski had 18 Points in the second month of 2016 but cooled off in the final three games before scoring a Hat Trick on Tuesday. For the Wolverines, Forward Erik Pedersen is second in the league with 50 Assists while Alaska commit Justing Young leads the team in Goals with 24.
-Story By Taylor Medak