BONNYVILLE, AB: The Sherwood Park Crusaders headed into the fourth game of the AJHL’s restart with their heads held high, after winning their second in a row on Friday night in Sherwood Park. The Bonnyville Pontiacs came into this one with a slightly different outlook on the restart after dropping two straight in Sherwood Park. Matthew Hennessey got his third consecutive start for the Pontiacs, after being pulled in Friday night’s game. Sherwood Park countered with Lochlan Gordan, who made his first career AJHL start for the Crusaders.
Bonnyville came out like a team looking to turn things around in this Cohort series with Sherwood Park. After an early double minor to Liam Hughes for high-sticking, Bonnyville’s power play was able to strike for the second time in as many games, as Chayce Schmidt found the rebound on Alex Power’s shot to beat Lochlan Gordon just 54 seconds into the game to give the Pontiacs a 1-0 lead. The momentum from the early power play goal allowed Bonnyville to continue to push the pace and they were rewarded when Austin Saint tipped in a Zack Whittaker shot for their second in the opening five minutes of the game. Sherwood Park started to press in their own way and refused to give up, despite the early hole. They took advantage of a defensive miscue, as Zafir Rawji potted a one-timer from the slot to cut the lead to one with just over five minutes left in the period. The Crusaders turned that one goal into a second in just 36 seconds, as Liam Hughes took a drop pass and ripped one home from the high slot, for his third goal of the weekend. The offense slowed down after that, as the first period ended with a tie game, 2-2. Shots were in favour of Bonnyville, 10-8.
The second period saw both sides trade chances throughout the period, as the two teams combined for 21 shots in the period. Bonnyville found the edge in the period as Mason Mantzavrakos scored on a beautiful solo rush, finishing a backhanded shot to give the Pontiacs the 3-2 lead. This would be the only goal of the period, as Bonnyville led 3-2 after 40 minutes.
Sherwood Park needed a big period if they were gonna extend their winning streak and they got what they were looking for. James Gibson ripped a shot off the faceoff, beating Hennessey for his first career AJHL goal, tying the game with over half the period to play. Sherwood Park continued to hunt for a winner, while maintaining defensive assignments. Once again, it was Liam Hughes for the Crusaders, taking the puck to the backhand and giving his team a 4-3 lead with five minutes left in the period. Bonnyville pulled the goalie with a minute to go, trying to tie the game, but to no avail, as the Sherwood Park Crusaders won this game, by a 4-3 score. Lochlan Gordon got his first AJHL win, making 27 saves to secure the victory. Hennessey made 24 saves in a losing effort for the Pontiacs.
Next up for Sherwood Park is the fifth game of the restart, in Bonnyville on Friday night, as they’ll look for a fourth consecutive win.
Story by Zach Marks