Sherwood Park Crusaders (12-10-0) VS Spruce Grove Saints (16-6-2)
Friday November 18th, 2016 – 7:00 PM
Sherwood Park Crusaders (12-10-0)* @ Spruce Grove Saints (16-6-2)*
Saturday November 19th, 2016 – 7:00 PM
Media: AJHL WebTV, Saints Radio Network
*record as of November 18th
Although it’s just over a third of the way through the 2016-17 AJHL Season the Sherwood Park Crusaders and Spruce Grove Saints will do away with their season series against one another Friday and Saturday in a home and home beginning Friday at the Sherwood Park Arena.
The Crusaders are riding high right now as the league’s hottest team with five Wins in a row and possibly couldn’t have hoped for a better opportunity to play a team that has their number once again.
Sherwood Park pulled off two big wins last weekend to extend their longest winning streak of the season, 8-5 over Whitecourt and 5-2 over Drayton Valley.
“Thought we stepped up on Saturday against a very good hockey team in Whitecourt. We played our best period of the season in the first, outshooting them 18-3, and playing a solid team game. We were fast, physical, and played with pace. It was good to see our guys step up and answer the bell against the best in the league. Sunday, thought we were average through 40 minutes, but played our best period in the third which was good to see. Even though we were average through 40 minutes, we maintained the lead, and put it away in the final frame when we needed to pull away.” Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
In Sunday’s game, Sherwood Park welcomed a new face to the fold, and a new one to the crease.
Matthew Berlin made his debut in a Crusaders uniform since his rights were acquired from the Drayton Valley Thunder.
“I thought Berlin was solid in his debut. I'm sure he would've liked to have had at least one of the two goals back, but all in all he was good for us when he needed to be and that's encouraging for us as a group.” Says Manah on Berlin’s 25 save victory.
Berlin’s acquisition couldn’t come at a better timing as Goaltender Josh Morrissey left Friday’s game after colliding with teammate Austin Shmoorkoff.
What couldn’t come at a better timing and hopefully can continue going forward, has been the play of Tyler Maltby.
The Arizona State commit had an eight Point weekend and was named the Canalta Hotels AJHL Player of The Week.
“Maltby had an outstanding week. He is doing everything right for us, and we can't express how good he's been all season so far. He has been scoring for us, being unselfish with the puck by bringing the pressure to him and dishing pucks to his linemates who have been finishing off the plays for him. It's really good to see for Tyler because everyone expects him to just be the goal scorer on our team, and now they have to worry about a totally different dynamic that he is bringing to his game.” Says Coach Manah.
Maltby’s weekend allowed him to climb a top of the AJHL scoring race with 20 Goals and 15 Assists.
“I think Ty’s (Readman) and Arjun’s (Atwal) shot are definitely starting to worry teams more than me just shooting the puck. There hasn’t been as much pressure on me to take all the shots, if I’m going to the net and drawing pressure I can get the puck to them. There’s no doubt that they can put the puck in.” Says Maltby on playing with his linemates.
Sherwood Park will not only need to rely on their top line with Maltby, but top to bottom will need to perform if the Crusaders will hope to extend their winning streak and avoid being swept at home this season against Spruce Grove.
The Saints are 3-1 against the Crusaders and 2-0 at the Sherwood Park Arena while outscoring them 9-1.
Sherwood Park feels that they are a much different team than in the earlier meetings this season against Spruce Grove.
“Besides the one game we won in Spruce Grove, we just haven't played well against them in the other three meetings. We feel we haven't made good reads, and made decisions that they've made us pay on whether it be bad pinches, or just not picking up guys on the backcheck. On the offensive side we haven't forced their Goalie to make enough saves, and really put pressure on their back end. These are all things that we'll need to be effective on going into the weekend.” Noted Manah.
“As a team, we are stressing a lot that we are a different team then what we were three weeks to a month ago. We were going through some growing pains, teams go through that, we’ve figured out how to win now.” Adds Maltby
The league’s leading Goal scorer is adamant that the final two games against Spruce Grove won’t be like the three losses to the Saints.
“It’s going to be different this time around, they were in our heads a bit before. I’m not going to lie, I think it was pretty obvious, but like I said, we’re a different team and it’s going to be a different game.” Says Maltby going into Friday.
The Saint’s success in Sherwood Park this season has been a true reflection of how they have played on the road in 2016-17.
With the best road record in the AJHL at 10-3-0, Spruce Grove will be looking to avenge a 7-2 loss this past Tuesday in Bonnyville against the Pontiacs.
Sherwood Park will look to try and find ways to put pucks past Saints Goaltender Nolan Kent. In the two Games at the Sherwood Park Arena against the Crusaders, Kent has allowed only one Goal.
“Keys this weekend will be our puck management in all three zones, we'll need to play well in our own end defensively, and offensively we need to put as many pucks on net as we can and try to put them back on their heels with our pressure.” Says Manah on going up against Spruce Grove this weekend.
The Crusaders have also attributed excellent Goaltending to their lone victory against Spruce Grove back in September, when Zac Klassen turned away a season high 43 of 46 shots.
With the way Berlin played on Sunday, it wouldn’t be out of the realm to see both Zac Klassen and Matt Berlin as the Crusaders look to inch closer to the Saints in the standings as Spruce Grove has a ten Point lead for the fourth spot in the North.
-Story By Taylor Medak
photo courtesy of Target Photography