Weekend Preview

The Sherwood Park Crusaders are still in search for their first win in 2015 after losing two straight games since returning from the Holiday break.  The most recent was a 3-2 loss on the road Wednesday in Whitecourt at the hands of the Wolverines.

“We carried the play for most of the game and I liked our compete level but two goals against were our own mistakes.”  Says Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle.

Fragle was quick to point out, although his team has started 2015 0-2 he has liked what he’s seen for the most part.

“We have liked the pace and structure in our game but we need to generate more offense.”  Notes Fragle.

The Crusaders have averaged 1.5 goals in their last two games and have allowed six total.

A team that has been able to score in bunches and put up high numbers has been absent in the last bit.

The Crusaders have been playing good defensively for the most part in 2015, part of that has been the depth at Center and the recent return of Bryar Ortynski has stabilized the Crusaders down the middle.

“He gives us depth down the middle. He has been out along time so still working on getting his timing back.”  Says Fragle on Ortynski who played his first game since mid September last Saturday against Lloydminster.

Friday the Crusaders take on one of the Viterra South Division teams the Crusaders have had success against this season, the Olds Grizzlys.

Olds is a much different team than the one the Crusaders beat 6-2 at the Sherwood Park Arena on September 21st.  And a big part of that is up front, on the December roster cut down deadline, the Grizzlys picked up AJHL veteran Jade McMullen from the Grande Prairie Storm, to bolster their offensive attack.

“They have offensive depth and top players that carry the load. They are a way better team now than early in the season.”  Says Fragle on Friday night’s opponent.

The Grizzlys are sitting fifth in the Viterra South Division and nine points back of fourth place Drumheller.  Both teams are hungry for points.

The Crusaders are no strangers going up against top players and have fed off shutting them down throughout the year.  Sherwood Park will definitely be looking to slow down the likes of McMullen and reigning CJHL Rookie of The Year, Chris Gerrie.

“We need to have a tight gap, taking away time and space and being physical on those players.”  Fragle said.

The Crusaders will have a day off Saturday before their next game, it should be an interesting day off however, as it is the AJHL and CJHL trade deadline.  There has already been a lot of activity with Lloydminster making some moves already, Fragle will be looking to add one thing going into the deadline.

“We are trying to add a forward if we can.  The past two days have been the busiest I have been at a deadline so lots of talk as well.”  Noted Fragle.

With how close the standings are we are more likely to see trades out of division and out of league.  Any team can trade with any other team under the CJHL branches of leagues.

Sunday the Crusaders return to the ice and to the Sherwood Park Arena.  It will be the toughest test of the season thus far with Spruce Grove making their final visit of the season.

The Crusaders are 1-2 against the leagues top team but have been competitive in every single game so far.  And that usually has been the case for the past couple of seasons when these two teams have met.

“I thought the last matchup we out chanced them, which isn't usually the case but made two mistakes again that ended up in the net.”  Fragle says.

The Crusaders will hope they can bear down and pick up their second victory over the Saints, who head into the weekend with the most points in the overall standings with 69 and a record of 33-6-3.

The Crusaders only victory against the Saints this season came back on September 13th in Spruce Grove, when Sherwood Park took the game 3-2 in Overtime.

-Story By Taylor Medak