With the final weekend of the AJHL's regular season starting Friday the statement, more questions than answers, is one that depicts the final two games for a few teams. The Sherwood Park Crusaders fall into that category. But there are some answers to some questions.
Such as, will the Crusaders get home ice in the first round of the AJHL Playoffs? The Crusaders need only a single point or a Bonnyville Pontiacs loss in either teams final 2 games to ensure the Crusaders begin the first round of the playoff at the Sherwood Park Arena.
Or, what position will the Crusaders finish in the North Division? Currently, Sherwood Park sits in 4th place with 61 points and trail Lloydminster by 4 points, the Bobcats also have 2 games remaining. The Crusaders need to win out while Lloydminster needs to lose out in regulation if Sherwood Park is hoping to finish 3rd.
Sherwood Park will either face Bonnyville or Whitecourt in the first round best of 5 playoff series next week. But the Crusaders and their GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle aren't looking ahead, as there is business to take care of with games Friday night in Spruce Grove and Saturday in Grande Prairie against the Storm.
“The goal is finishing strong right now and focusing on playoff habits.” Said Fragle.
A playoff habit the Crusaders will need to hone is winning in Spruce Grove. If the Crusaders are to have a long post season run, that road will most likely travel through Spruce Grove.
“We just need the 2 points, we've played the Saints well at home picking up 5 of 6 points, just haven't been successful in Spruce.” Fragle said on playing the Saints away from the Sherwood Park Arena.
The Saints have an impressive 25-2-1 home record this season, much like the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. The Crusaders are no stranger to knocking off the divisions top teams on the road. The Crusaders will look to continue the momentum from their big 4-3 shootout win in Fort McMurray this past Sunday.
“[Our] start is always key to create some adversity for the opponent.” Stated Fragle.
One of the keys to a good start will be to get the first goal. Unfortunately those have been hard to come by in the 2 previous visits to the Grant Fuhr Arena this season. The Crusaders have been out scored 9-2 by the Saints when playing just west of the Alberta capital. Part of the reason for that has been the play of AJHL Goaltender of the year finalist Kenny Cameron. Cameron has a staggering 33 wins with 3 shutouts, a 2.22 G.A.A and a .909 save percentage.
“Traffic is key, if he sees the puck, he'll stop it.” Says Fragle on the Saints net minder.
After Friday's game in Spruce Grove the Crusaders will travel to Grande Prairie for game 60 on the regular season schedule. Depending on how things go Friday night, Saturday's game could still be very important as to where the Crusaders will finish with a win or loss. It as well marks the first time the Storm and Crusaders clash since Grande Prairie's dominating 5-2 win over the Crusaders on February 19th. Fragle is looking for his players to use that loss as motivation for Saturday's game.
“I hope so, Grande Prairie is strong at home so we will have our hands full. They have no pressure on them and can go out and play which can be a scary thought.” Said Fragle on the Storm.
Grande Prairie is having to play with no pressure as they will not be playing in the post season this year. It has been a troubling 2013-14 for the Storm who have gone through a coaching change and we're ousted in the first round of the playoffs buy the Crusaders after finishing 2nd in the North last season.
The Crusaders will begin the playoffs on March 6th.