Weekend Preview – Crusaders Battle North Foes

Sherwood Park Crusaders (10-10-0) VS Whitecourt Wolverines (17-4-3) Saturday November 12th, 2016 – 7:00 PM

Media: AJHL WebTV, Wolverines Radio Network

Sherwood Park Crusaders (10-10-0)* VS Drayton Valley Thunder (3-12-4) Sunday November 13th, 2016 – 2:15 PM

Media: AJHL WebTV

*record as of November 12th

The Sherwood Park Crusaders are looking to extend their season high winning streak to four when they begin a set of back to back games this weekend at the Sherwood Park Arena, starting Saturday night against Whitecourt.

The Crusaders won their season high third game in a row Wednesday night when they defeated the Drayton Valley Thunder 3-1 on the road.

Sherwood Park certainly made amends for their first outing in Drayton Valley, a game that was all Thunder, defeating the Crusaders 5-1.

“Probably our best all around game of the year.  We were simple, effective moving pucks out of our end and created offense off the rush and in the Offensive Zone.  I really liked the way we are coming together as a group, and hopefully that continues for us.”  Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.

The Crusaders peppered Thunder Goaltender Joseph McLeod with 40 shots and held Drayton Valley to only 17.
Wednesday’s victory marked only the second time this year that the Crusaders have held an opponent to a Goal or less.

Leading the way offensively for the Crusaders was once again the top line of Tyler Maltby, Arjun Atwal and Ty Readman.  The trio combined for five Points in the 4-1 and have a combined 10 Points in the last three Games.

“That line has been outstanding since we've put them together.  They all seem to feed off each other, and the best part is they are all unselfish with the puck.  They look for each other every chance they get, and look for the best play that is available.  Consistently, they have been one of our most dangerous lines.”  Adds Manah.

Lately Manah has tried to emphasize consistent efforts and commitment to defense, last Friday’s 9-7 Win in Camrose didn’t quite echo that but in the last two Games, the Crusaders have cleaned up their act per say, and Saturday night will look to continue that stingy play against a team that had their number in the first meeting of the season.

Whitecourt man handled the Crusaders 7-3 back on October 4th, in Whitecourt.

“We definitely weren't playing like we are now the last time we played them.  We feel like we've taken some steps in the right direction since we last saw them.  They jumped on us with their speed, and attack game, and we were overwhelmed in those areas.  We know they are coming in hot, and it's going to be a real good challenge to see where our game is at now compared to then.”  Says Manah on the early October game.

One X factor in Saturday’s game will be the fact that the player who torched Sherwood Park for five Points in the October 4th contest, will not be present.

Bryson Traptow, who scored a Goal and added four Assists in that 7-3 win, was traded to Camrose last week.

Although one player doesn’t make a difference, the Crusaders will also potentially have to deal with one of the league’s top Goaltenders so far this season, Pierce Diamond.

The first year Wolverine is second in the AJHL in Wins with 10, and second in G.A.A with a 1.79 average while posting a .925 SV%.

Wolverine Forward Justin Young leads the team with 10 Goals and 16 Assists.

The Wolverines also look like a different team, in a positive way, as they will bring their first place record of 17-4-3 and a nine game winning streak.

“Keys will be to continue to play the way we have been for the past three games or so.  We played our best defensive game of the year on Wednesday, we are creating lots of offensive scoring chances for ourselves, and the biggest thing we'll need to control is our discipline.  We know they have a good Power Play, we have to make sure we limit their opportunities and capitalize on our chances.”  Said Manah on taking on the Wolverines.

After Saturday, the focus will turn back on to the Drayton Valley Thunder as they make their first appearance of the season at the Sherwood Park Arena.

The Thunder were without the services of their second leading scorer in Wednesday’s game, Rhett Wilcox.  Coincidently, his last game was October 29th, the 5-1 Win over Sherwood Park.

“We know Drayton had a few of their key guys out on Wednesday so regardless of that we'll have to make sure that we come prepared, and focused on the task at hand.  We know they work hard, and they are going to want to push back in our rink after we beat them on Wednesday.  We just need to continue to stress that every game is important, and every opportunity of gaining two Points is huge for us as a group no matter who our opponent is.”  Says Manah.

Sherwood Park will also have a new face in the mix this weekend, the club acquired Goaltender Matt Berlin from the Thunder.  The Edmonton, AB product comes from the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League where he appeared in one game this season after spending part of last season and the start of this year with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. 

Whether or not Berlin suits up this weekend for the Cru is still unclear.

Heading into the weekend the Crusaders sit in fifth place with 20 Points and 12 back of Spruce Grove for fourth place in the division. With the final two meetings of the season taking place next week against the Saints, a pair of victories could add a lot more drama to a season series that has gone the way of the Saints in this young 2016-17 season.

-Story By Taylor Medak