Sherwood Park Crusaders (13-11-1) VS Fort McMurray Oil Barons (19-5-1) Friday November 25th, 2016 – 7:00 PM
Sherwood Park Crusaders (13-11-1)* VS Bonnyville Pontiacs (19-6-3)* Saturday November 26th, 2016 – 7:00 PM
*record as of November 25th
Once again, the Sherwood Park Crusaders find themselves with an excellent test over the upcoming weekend as they welcome two of the top teams in the Viterra North Division, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons tonight and the Bonnyville Pontiacs tomorrow evening.
Sherwood Park is looking forward as earlier this week they lost for the first time in regulation in seven games, 3-1 at the hands of the Lloydminster Bobcats.
“We were not dialed into the game. Our preparation and focus was not there from the get go.” Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
The Crusaders, were flat, lethargic and downright slow in Wednesday’s loss. The group lacked the jump they had had since the start of November that saw them win six game in a row.
Thursday at practice, the group hit the reset button.
“We went short and hard. We focused on getting back to the simple things like getting pucks through from the point and getting traffic to the front of the net.” Noted Manah.
Part of Wednesday’s demise led to an abundance of missed nets from the point, and if the Crusader Defensemen were able to get a shot on goal, there were no bodies in the vicinity.
A definite key to the weekend’s success will be getting shots through and generating traffic in front of the net. Especially against Fort McMurray who have allowed a Division low in 55 Goals heading into Friday’s contest. Plus, MOB Goaltender Eric Szudor sports a 1.89 Goals Against Average and a .929 Save Percentage.
“The MOB skate very well, they pressure pucks hard and force you to make a good decision with the puck. They also have the best Special Teams in the league along with one of the best Goaltenders in the league currently.” Said Manah on facing Fort McMurray.
The biggest keys for the Crusaders will be staying discipline and keeping the puck out of the net. They can score against the Oil Barons but keeping a deep lineup at bay and staying out of the box to a Power Play that is at 30.8% will ultimately dictate the outcome of Friday night.
Saturday the focus turns to a team that leads the division heading into the weekend and is paying its first visit to the Sherwood Park Arena since having their season end at the hands of the Crusaders last spring.
The Bonnyville Pontiacs got their revenge in the first meeting of the year against the Crusaders on October 19th with a 6-1.
“We thought we played pretty well the last time we were in Bonnyville. Our Goaltending let us down a bit in that game, but they are well coached and they work extremely hard in every area of the game. We have to better in those areas if we hope to have success, and of course make sure we bare down on our opportunities.” Says Manah on going up against Bonnyville.
Saturday has the potential to be a real shootout, something I’m sure Pontiac GM and Head Coach Rick Swan and Adam Manah won’t want, but five of the top 15 scorers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League will be playing in Saturday’s contest.
The Crusaders will try to contain Derek Brown, PJ Marrocco and Brandon Whistle, who are four, five and eight in league scoring.
If Sherwood Park can forget about Wednesday and rekindle the magic they had in the last two Friday night games, we could be in for an exciting weekend as we near the half way mark of the 2016-17 AJHL Regular Season.
-Story By Taylor Medak