Grande Prairie, AB: The Sherwood Park Crusaders closed out the road portion of their schedule on Saturday afternoon in Grande Prairie. Joe Chambers got the call between the pipes for the Storm, while Carson Cherepak made his return to the crease after a couple of games off.
Sherwood Park got off to a hot start in this one, scoring just a minute and a half into the game, as Zafir Rawji found the rebound from a Nick Magis shot and shovelled it home to give his side a 1-0 lead. This lead would last for half the period, as Sherwood Park kept Grande Prairie out of the dangerous scoring zones, including killing off a Zac Maxwell tripping call. The Storm tied the game about 13 minutes into the frame, taking a stretch pass from Ty Toews and beating Cherepak five-hole for his third goal of the weekend. Sherwood Park would get a pair of power plays late in the period, with the Storm killing off the initial interference penalty to Brannon Butler. An unsportsmanlike conduct call to Cole Broadhurst gave the Crusaders a power play heading into the second period. Shots were close throughout the period, with the Storm taking a slight advantage, 10-9.
The Crusaders entered the period on the power play, and despite not scoring with the advantage, they did pot one shortly after it ended. After a big save from Joe Chambers, the puck bounced around the front of the net until it found the sticks of Ashton McNelly and Brandon McCartney at the same time. The Crusaders pair swung at the puck together, guiding it into the net to re-establish the Crusaders lead. The goal was credited to McCartney for his first career AJHL goal. The rest of the middle frame was a tightly contested game, with both teams trading chances. Sherwood Park took the lone penalty in the period, killing off a Liam Hughes interference penalty to keep the score at 2-1 after two periods. Shots once again favoured the Storm, 9-5 in the period for a total of 19-14 after two.
The third and deciding period saw the Storm fired ten more shots at the Crusaders goal than their opponents, but none managed to beat Cherepak, who stood pat throughout the final twenty. Sherwood Park got the much-needed insurance marker eight minutes into the frame, as Cale Ashcroft blasted a point shot through a screen and beat Chambers to extend the Crusaders lead. The Crusaders penalty kill remained perfect on the weekend, rendering a McCartney tripping penalty unimpactful. The Crusaders power play couldn’t strike on their final attempt in the third but once again scored shortly after their advantage expired. Zac Maxwell took the puck behind the net, which was read well by Chambers. However, Maxwell made a beautiful no-look pass behind his back to James Gibson, who caught the Storm napping late in the third to push the Crusaders lead to three goals and putting an end to the game. For Maxwell, it was his first career AJHL point. The Crusaders would hold onto the three-goal lead, taking this one by a score of 4-1. Carson Cherepak made 35 saves in the win, while Joe Chambers made 18 in the loss.
The two teams will meet again for a pair of games next weekend to bring the 2020-21 season to an end.
Story by Zach Marks