Sherwood Park Crusaders (25-15-2) VS Grande Prairie Storm (9-30-3) January 15th, 2016 – 7:00 PM
Sherwood Park Crusaders (25-15-2)* VS Drayton Valley Thunder (16-20-4)* January 16th, 2016 – 7:00 PM
*record as of January 15th
2016 has not been kind to the Sherwood Park Crusaders. Nearing the three quarter point in the 2015-16 AJHL Regular Season, the Crusaders have one win in four tries this new year, as they are coming off a 6-1 loss to the last place Fort McMurray Oil Barons last Saturday.
Sherwood Park did not make any ground on the Lloydminster Bobcats who are still ahead of them in the Standings by 10 Points.
The Crusaders remain in fifth place in the Viterra North Division and with the days continuing to disappear in January, victories are key if Sherwood Park, at the very least, wants to stay in the conversation for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Fifth place, however, could potentially be cemented for the Crusaders if they can pick up two victories against the Grande Prairie Storm and Drayton Valley Thunder this weekend.
Friday the Storm pay their final visit to the Sherwood Park Arena this season as the season series comes to close with the Crusaders having won all five matchups.
The first two matchups could have gone either way as Sherwood Park picked up 5-4 and 4-3 victories, in Overtime and a Shootout respectively, in the both teams’ first games of the Regular Season.
It’s been all downhill from there for the Storm against Sherwood Park, especially at the Sherwood Park Arena.
The Crusaders have outscored the Storm 22 to 5 in their last three games, 15-3 on home ice.
Timely scoring and Special Teams have been keys to the victories on home ice for Sherwood Park against the Storm. Six first period goals, 60% on the Power Play and two Short Handed Goals.
The Crusaders will need to pounce on the Storm early in order for success.
Despite the Storms 9-30-3 record, much like the Crusaders opponent last week, are in the mix for the Post Season. Grande Prairie holds onto the seventh and final playoff spot in the North with 21 Points, only a single point ahead of Fort McMurray.
Grande Prairie will be desperate.
Saturday night the focus will turn to a team that has given the Crusaders fits over the past few seasons and always keeps the contest close or comes out on top when paying visit to the Sherwood Park Arena.
The Drayton Valley Thunder trail the Crusaders by 16 Points in the standings. Much like the Crusaders, the Thunder will be entering Saturday’s contest fresh off a game Friday night, depending on the Thunder’s results, fifth spot could be out of reach when it’s all said and done.
Sherwood Park leads the season series 2-1 and will have the task of taking on a Drayton Valley team that is 2-8-0 in their last 10 Games and one win in their last eight.
As mentioned it seems to always be close game between the Crusaders and Thunder, part of the reason being the fact the Thunder have thirteen Capital region players on their roster, four of them from Sherwood Park. With a large contingent of friends and family, Drayton Valley always comes out with a hard effort.
Players to watch: For the Crusaders they received well balanced scoring in their last win and will look to carry that into games this weekend, Forward Ty Readman has 8 Points versus the Storm this season, Forward Tyler Maltby has 7 and is still leading the AJHL with 28 Goals…For the Storm, Forward Luke Mahura leads the team with 19 Goals and 42 Points and have three other Forwards with 10 or more Goals, Ian McLellan (13), Michale Clarke (12) and Josh Zablocki (17)…The Thunder are the third lowest scoring team in the AJHL but Forwards Brayden Harris and Troy Rapuano lead the way with 31 and 28 Points while on the backend Defenseman Austin Yarekchuk has 10 Points in twelve games so far with the Thunder since being traded from Lloydminster. It will be interesting to see who is in Goal for Drayton Valley on Saturday, the Thunder recently picked up Matt Berlin from the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, and Brett Zarowny has only appeared in two games since being acquired from the Spruce Grove Saints.
-Story By Taylor Medak