If there was any sign of the Sherwood Park Crusaders being able to get back in their Best of Seven North Division Semi Final Series against the Spruce Grove Saints, perhaps it’s a change of venue for Game Three tonight and Four on Wednesday. It’s a chance to hit the reset button, and get back into the series with a win on home ice.
The Crusaders got taken to the woodshed by the defending Gas Drive Cup Champions in Games One and Two, losing by a combined score of 14-2.
The Saints came out flying in Game One on Friday scoring four goals in the first period and on Saturday, after Crusader Forward Tyler Maltby scored the games opening goal, Spruce Grove put three past Zac Klassen in the first 20 minutes.
There are many areas where you can point to on why Sherwood Park struggled in a building where they had played so well in during the Regular Season, but you can’t argue the fact that Spruce Grove had the edge already in Game One coming off the First Round Bye and resting up while Sherwood Park went to war for Four Games with Bonnyville in the Division Quarter Finals.
The Saints looked a step ahead in Game One that saw them come away with an 8-1 victory.
On Saturday, Game Two would get off to a great start for Sherwood Park as mentioned, Tyler Maltby scored the games opening goal with 1:10 into the Game. The goal that was scored are the types of goals that the Crusaders are going to have to try and get a lot of if they want to get back in this series.
An innocent play down the left wing side saw Forward Cole Chorney enter the offensive with good support from Maltby, the puck was worked on goal to an unsuspecting Saints Netminder Matthew Murray and Tyler Maltby was able to follow the play and put the puck home.
Other than the first ten minutes, the Crusaders really failed to drive and crash the net for the rest of the game and work puck into the feet of Murrray and in the crease in the 6-1 Game Two loss.
The Crusaders cannot pass up opportunities in Game Three in getting the puck to the net and then following it up to try an create havoc in the crease.
One key that was stated entering the series for either team would be Special Teams. And right now it’s Spruce Grove who holds that edge.
The Saints are 4/12 on the Power Play and have killed off all nine Crusader Power Plays.
Even further to that point, is really the timely Power Play Goals that Spruce Grove has scored, and they have come on their first Power Play Opportunities in Games
One and Two providing momentum going forward.
One extremely important key in Games Three and Four will be for the Crusaders to kill of their first penalty.
Along with killing penalties, what would help is to also limit the amount of penalties to kill in Game Three and Four.
Sherwood Park’s discipline also led to their demise a bit in Game Two as the players seemed a little more focused on standing up to the Saints on a physical level. In total Sherwood Park was assessed 77 minutes in Penalties in Game Two.
What set off the Crusader players was a hit thrown by Saints Forward Connor Lukan to the head of an unsuspecting Brett Van Os at the end of the First Period. No penalty was called on the play that left Van Os down on the ice to be attended to by Trainer Matt Bonneau.
Van Os will not be available for Game Three.
Sherwood Park in the second Period of Game Two, as stated before, wanted to even the score on a physical level, however, it did not pay off as a result by the score.
There were two suspensions handed out after Game Two, the Saints Connor Lukan did receive discipline as the hit was reviewed by the AJHL and Lukan was handed a two game suspension.
Crusader Forward Devon McAndrews is suspended for Game Three after he was assessed an instigator penalty for fighting an unsuspecting Tyler Busch of the Saints after a scrum in front of Sherwood Park’s Zac Klassen.
Sherwood Park has to bite their proverbial tongue when it comes to getting involved with the Saints in extra curricular activities after the whistle.
With the amount of goals scored against the Crusaders in this series so far, one might think the Goaltending could be an issue, other than two Goals allowed by Zac Klassen, the Saints have earned their chances that has included some poor defensive coverage by the Crusaders.
Puck watching was an issue, as was picking up opponents on the back check in Games One and Two. Spruce Grove likes to stretch the ice east and west coming off the rush and have a lot of poise with the puck in tight.
Defenseman Ian Mitchell has had an outstanding first two games with a Goal and three Assists. He has been one Saint player that emphasizes poise and always seems to wait for the perfect play.
Game Three’s starter in Goal for the Crusaders could be a tough one for Tim Fragle and his coaching staff, do you stick with Klassen who isn’t to blame for the Crusaders downfall so far this series? Or do you try an change the tide of the series and go with Zach Dyment who made 16 Saves in relief of Klassen in Game One? Fragle has stated it’s in the plans for the Crusaders to use both Goaltenders in the Post Season.
Using both Goaltenders is what the Saints have done in the first two games, Ravi Dattani got the nod in Game One making 28 Saves while Matthew Murray was in Goal for Game Two making 23 Saves.
Much like Games One and Two, the Crusaders cannot afford to get behind in the big picture, that is the Seven Game series. It’s evident the Crusaders have been in big holes this series that they could not get out of, and going to down 3-0 in the series much like last year, is an even deeper hole that most likely cannot be dug out of.
-Story By Taylor Medak