It is arguably the biggest game of the 2014-15 Regular Season Wednesday night for both the Sherwood Park Crusaders and their arch rival the Bonnyville Pontiacs. The Crusaders, coming off a weeks rest after picking up a 6-5 Overtime victory over Drayton Valley, find themselves one point back of the Pontiacs for fourth place in the Viterra North Division with 57.
The winner of Wednesday nights game moves into third place in the division. The Pontiacs would have sole possession, the Crusaders would be tied for third with Fort McMurray who are idle Wednesday night.
Sherwood Park has had a week to prepare for Wednesday’s game. The group was able to pick up a 6-5 victory over the Drayton Valley Thunder in Overtime a week ago. It was a wild game that saw the Crusaders blow several leads, but ultimately came out on top in the end.
It was the first time this season the Crusaders won in Overtime at the Sherwood Park Arena.
“It was a good feeling [to get that win] as we have been playing a lot of those games this year. I liked that we controlled the game. We had good possession numbers but on the negative we made mistakes that ended up in our net.” Says Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle.
The Crusaders hope they can carry over the offense from last week and bring it into Wednesday’s game against the Pontiacs. What was thought to be a dried up offense in the month of January, the Crusaders have averaged 4.6 goals in their last five games and have scored five or more goals four times in that span.
One player that has contributed to that stat has been Forward Cole Gammer, who is on a four game goal streak.
“He is going to the net and if you want to score more that’s where it starts.” Says Fragle on the 17 year old rookie.
“There’s nothing I’ve really changed in my game that’s led to this goal streak. My line is starting to see the hard work pay off and the bounces are starting to go our way.” Says Gammer on his play of late.
The Edmonton, AB native is playing alongside Reid Bosse and Tanner Laderoute on the wing.
Gammer’s greatness is coming at an ideal time as he has played exceptional against the Pontiacs this season, with four goals in as many games, including an Overtime winner on September 30th.
“Bonnyville has some big guys that like to get wrapped up in things, we are going to have to focus on our game, I’m going to have to keep working to get to those greasy areas because it’s a tough thing to do sometimes.” Gammer says on the key to sustain the personal success Wednesday night.
The Pontiacs should be coming into Wednesday’s game with some confidence as they were victorious over the Crusaders in their last meeting, a 6-5 Overtime victory in Bonnyville in late January.
Although they have lost three games in a row, they have points in nine of their last ten games.
“Bonnyville is a good structured team and all our games have been tight one goal games this season that could have gone either way. We expect the same Wednesday night.” Notes Fragle.
The lone exception to that statement is, and it favors the Crusaders, Sherwood Park won 6-3 on December 10th when Bonnyville made their first visit of the season to the Sherwood Park Arena.
It is a bit of a different team coming into Sherwood Park than in February, mostly in goal with Sherwood Park native Troy Trembley.
The Pontiacs acquired the 20 year old at the AJHL/CJHL Trade Deadline on January 10th from the Melville Millionaires of the Saskatchewan Junior League. Trembley has posted a 7-3-3 record with one shutout, a 2.58 G.A.A and .915 Save Percentage.
The Crusaders will look to shutdown a few familiar faces in Dillon McCombie and Kyler Hehn who lead the team in scoring with 56 and 53 points respectively.
“We need a solid 60 minute effort focused on playing well in our own end and competing in all three zones.” Says Fragle on going up against the Pontiacs.
Gammer reiterated the same ideology from the Coach.
“We need to play good defense and get in front of shots if we want to win. We know we can score, but our defensive game is even more important.”
The Crusaders begin a tough week as it is the first of four games this week, Friday is another clash with the Drayton Valley Thunder at the Sherwood Park Arena, Sunday a home date against the Grande Prairie Storm and then on Family Day afternoon, the final visit to the Grant Fuhr Arena of the season to take on the Spruce Grove Saints.
Fragle’s m.o has been taking it a game at a time from here on in. And it begins Wednesday against the Bonnyville Pontiacs.
-Story by Taylor Medak