Sherwood Park Crusaders (7-7-1) VS Spruce Grove Saints (11-4-1) Friday October 27th, 2017 – 7:00pm
Sherwood Park Crusders (7-7-1)* VS Whitecourt Wolverines (10-4-3)* Saturday October 28th, 2017- 7:00pm
Media: Crusaders Hockey on AJHL WebTV; Wolverines Radio Network
*record as of October 27th
SHERWOOD PARK, AB – As October comes to a close, the Sherwood Park Crusaders will finish the month off with another tough weekend set against two of the top teams in the Viterra North Division.
It’s been six days since the Crusaders last played a game, and a weekend of action that saw them fail to pick up points against Fort McMurray and Bonnyville. But there was a bit of optimism around the group after last weekend.
“Thought we had a real good effort in Fort McMurray on Saturday night. We competed hard, never quit throughout any point of the game even when we were down 3-1, and 4-2 in the third period. It was a great test for us in one of the toughest buildings in the league, playing the best team in the league. Unfortunately, Sunday in Bonnyville we couldn't back that up. We looked dull, and our special teams let us down on both the power play and penalty kill. We had numerous chances to win that game, and we couldn't find a way to do it.” Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
Sherwood Park’s focus has turned to the Spruce Grove Saints and the Whitecourt Wolverines as the team hosts their north rivals for the second time each, tonight and tomorrow, in 2017-18.
The Crusaders and Saints last played September 27th in Sherwood Park, with Spruce Grove drawing first blood in the six game season series, winning 5-2.
“Spruce Grove is a well rounded team from top to bottom. They skate well, have a solid back end and goaltending, and are hard to play against. They can play any type of game, and challenge you to be better. Whether that's a fast paced skilled game, or a game in which they grind it out and wear you down. Either way both pose as a difficult task for us tonight.” Noted Manah.
Friday’s contest will see a battle of two of the leagues leading scorers in Crusaders Forward Ty Readman and Saints Forward Chris Van Os-Shaw. Specifically, the Crusaders will need to contain Van Os-Shaw as he put up three points in the September 27th game against Sherwood Park. The Regina, SK product also leads the league in goals with 15.
“Van Os-Shaw is a pure goal scorer. We will need to be well aware of when he steps on the ice by limiting his time and space, playing physical on him, and not giving him opportunities to shoot the puck. We'll have to stay disciplined as well to not allow him chances to score on their power play.” Notes Manah.
In the September 27th game both teams failed to score on the power play, but being discipline for the Crusaders is certainly a major key.
Sherwood Park will also, most likely be facing one of the league’s top Goaltenders in Nolan Kent. The sophomore netminder leads the AJHL in goals against average, 1.38 and save percentage, .944.
“Keys for us will be execution whether that be off the rush or in the offensive zone. We need to get as many pucks to the net to not only force him to make the first stop, but to make the second and third ones as well. Traffic at net front will also be important to take away his eyes, and for us to find ways of getting some greasy goals in tight.” Said Manah on beating Kent.
Whether it is Kent in goal or Parker Tobin, who generally has good outings against Sherwood Park, the Crusaders will have to execute the offensive strategy laid out by the coaching staff in order for success.
After tonight, the Crusaders will get right back on the horse as they host the Whitecourt Wolverines Saturday night at the Sherwood Park Arena.
The Wolverines lead the season series 2-0, but both games have essentially been one goal affairs, with Whitecourt edging the Crusaders 4-3 in Overtime back on September 24th in Sherwood Park, and a 3-1 win, with an empty net goal, on October 6th in Whitecourt over the Crusaders.
“The first two meetings against Whitecourt they've been very exciting games. Both have been close, tight hockey games in which they could've went either way. We have liked how we've been able to skate with them, and compete. They are a team that works extremely hard, and will challenge you to try and beat them at their own defensive game. For us it's finding a way to score that next big goal that'll put us over the hump against them.” Manah stated.
The biggest challenge for Sherwood Park on Saturday will be to contain the top trio of Wolverines in Liam Motley, Jaedon Leslie and Tyr Thompson. Motley and Leslie lead the team with 18 points heading into Friday’s action, while first year Wolverine Thompson has 16.
“All three on that line are big bodies that can skate well, and pose a threat to score every time they are on the ice. For us, the line that's out there will have to be aware of when they are on the ice. Manage pucks in the defensive zone, and neutral zone not allowing them to have any quick counter attacks, or transition plays against us which lead to odd man rushes.” Says Manah on defending the Wolverines top guns.
For the Crusaders, it’s once again a tough, but great test for their group going up against a pair of teams that sit where the Crusaders would eventually like to be. The group has added pieces throughout the last couple of weeks to try and get to that level. Most recently the Crusaders added another Goaltender in Josh Dechaine. The St. Albert, AB native made his Crusader debut last week in Fort McMurray against the Oil Barons.
Head Coach Manah was impressed with the goaltender’s debut last week.
“I thought Dechaine was exceptional in his first start. He gave us every chance to win that hockey game, and is calm between the pipes. He makes the first save, and that's key for us. He will make his home debut Friday against Spruce Grove.”
-Story by Taylor Medak