Weekend Preview

The Sherwood Park Crusaders will be looking for better fortunes this time around as they endeavor on another Southern road swing starting Friday night in Drumheller to battle the Dragons for the 2nd straight game.

Sherwood Park will be riding a 3 game winning streak that has seen wins against Whitecourt, Fort McMurray and Drumheller.  In the last 3 wins the Crusaders have been playing some of their best hockey, 6 out of the last 7 periods quite possibly have been their best all season.

“We’ve definitely limited our mistakes during this time and pushed the pace as well.”  Says Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle.

Fragle has really liked his groups effort in the past week that saw two 1 goal wins against Whitecourt (4-3) and Drumheller (3-2) and a huge 3-0 shutout over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons last Friday.

“We played well in the final 20 minutes on Wednesday and carried that into Friday to which we played a solid 60 minutes.  Saturday we played a strong 40 minute game and in the final frame both teams played well.”  Fragle elaborated.

The Crusaders dominated the Dragons for the first 40 minutes, outshooting them 30-8, but only up 2-0 thanks to the play of Drumheller netminder Curtis Skip. 

The Dragons got within 1 goal twice in the 3rd period, once from Jacob Schofield less than a minute into the 3rd and then again from Reid Nemeth after Crusaders Forward Daniel Wray netted the eventual game winner.

“The last 20 minutes was the tougher part of that game, first 40 was pretty easy but luckily we dug our heals in and I was able to score that goal and we hung on for the win.”  Says Wray who goes into Friday’s action against the Dragons 5th on the team in Points with 14.

The Dragons will definitely have the memories of last week’s loss in Sherwood Park in their mind Friday night.  The Crusaders may have dodged a bit of a bullet as the Dragons netted 8 goals against the Calgary Mustangs, the next game after last Saturday’s 3-2 loss.  The entire Crusader team expects a very different 60 minute effort Friday night against the Dragons.

“Drumheller is a very strong team and I have no doubt they will rebound with a better effort.”  Fragle Said.

The road swing will continue Saturday in Brooks where the Crusaders will battle the 2013 RBC Cup champions.  The Bandits were slow out of the gate but have found their way back around the top of the Viterra South Division and squeaked into the top 20 in the CJHL rankings this past week.  They also have a win against the Crusaders so far in 2014-15, that one coming back in September at the AJHL Showcase by a score of 4-1.

Sherwood Park has had their struggles in Brooks the last half a decade, and have never won at the Centennial Regional Arena.  Sherwood Park’s last win in Brooks came in 2008-2009 by a 4-0 score and in the last 3 trips to Brooks the Crusaders have been outscored 21-6.

“Brooks home record speaks for itself.  We need to have a good start and give them a better game than we did at the Showcase.”  Notes Fragle.

It’s been an interesting series between the Crusaders and Bandits the last decade, since the 2008-09 season the Home team has gone 10-0 and while Brooks has only 1 regulation win in 9 Seasons when facing the Crusaders in Sherwood Park.

“They showed us up back at the Showcase but I think we’ve developed a lot as a team since then, so if we go in and play our game, lock it down on defense and chip away on offense, we should be fine.”  Added Daniel Wray.

The weekend trip ends Sunday afternoon in Calgary as the Crusaders battle the Mustangs at the Father David Bauer Arena.  Sherwood Park hopes someone can rekindle the magic that former Crusader Nicholas Jones had last season when he netted 4 goals against the Mustangs en route to a 5-2 victory last season.

Although the Mustangs are in last place in the Viterra South Division they have some weapons in their lineup.  Goaltender Ravi Dattani has always posed fits for the Crusaders it seems when he is in the net.  Committed player Mason Mitchell and NHL Draft Watch List player Adam Berg can be dangerous up front.

“3 games in 2 ½ days is very difficult. They have been playing better hockey of late and it will be a real test for us on Sunday.”  Says Fragle.

The Crusaders will be hoping that this Southern road trip boasts better results than the one back in early October when the Crusaders failed to pick up points in Canmore, Okotoks and in Calgary against the Canucks.