Weekend Preview – Crusaders Travel South

Sherwood Park Crusaders (14-16-2) @ Drumheller Dragons (17-14-3) Friday December 15th, 2017 – 7:30pm

Media: AJHL WebTV; Dragons Radio Network

Sherwood Park Crusaders (14-16-2)* @ Olds Grizzlys (13-20-1)* Saturday December 16th, 2017 – 7:00pm

Media: AJHL WebTV; Grizzlys Radio Network

*record as of December 15th

SHERWOOD PARK, AB – Heading into the final weekend before the holiday break for the Sherwood Park Crusaders, the team is looking to match a season high three game winning streak, as they travel to Drumheller Friday and Olds on Saturday.

The Crusaders got themselves in this position with two big wins on home ice last week at the Sherwood Park Arena, 6-2 last Friday over Lloydminster and a 5-4 overtime win against the Bonnyville Pontiacs.

“I thought we were a little slow out of the gate against Lloydminster on Friday in the first 10 minuntes of the game, but the final 50 minutes was real solid.  We were able to play well five on five, and pot a couple of power play goals.  On Sunday, it felt like a playoff game right off the get go against Bonnyville.  We handled it well, and thought minus a few mental errors we had good intensity, energy, and found a way to come back from a two-goal deficit to get the two points.”  Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.

The Crusaders were able to get timely scoring both Friday and Sunday, but as well as good goaltending.

Netminder Joshua Dechaine earned back to back starts and brought his win total up to three since joining the Crusaders in late October.

“He was good for us.  Friday was his best game of the season.  He looked calm, controlled his rebounds, and gave us what we needed which was an opportunity to win the game.  Sunday, he probably would admit he wasn't as sharp as he needed to be, but in overtime he made a couple big saves which once again gave us a chance to win the game.  That's all we need from him, or Vogel when they are in the net.”  Noted Manah.

As Head Coach Manah eluded to, Sunday was a playoff type of game between the two teams, and another classic between the Crusaders and Pontiacs.

Fortunately for Sherwood Park, they provided most of the theatrics and it resulted in the victory.  One of them being Forward Dylan Stewart scoring the overtime winner.

The former Pontiac was ecstatic to get one past his old squad.

“I thought Sunday was huge for our team.  We were working really hard and not getting rewarded.”  Said Stewart.

Things looked like they did back in October for the Crusaders on Sunday, at one point.

A close game, slipped out of their fingers in the third period being down by two goals, but the team rallied with a pair of goals in the final 10 minutes to force overtime.

“Being down two in the third period may have been the nail in the coffin a few months ago, but the boys did a great job battling back.”  Added Stewart.

“Scoring the winner was a special feeling against the old team.”  Noted the former Pontiac.

“We’re playing two teams we haven’t seen much of, so it’s important we go in confident and have a full 60 minute effort.  Something we have been struggling with on the road.  I think if we continue playing how we did the past weekend, we can bank some important points heading into the break.”  Said Stewart.

Friday, the Crusaders will look to match a season high winning streak of three games when they travel to Drumheller to take on a Dragon team that has lost three straight.

However, Adam Manah is not looking past the fact the Dragons are one of the best teams in the Viterra South Division on home ice.

“We expect them to be a very difficult team to play at home.  They are 10-4-2 on home ice, and they play hard in their rink.  They'll finish checks, battle extremely hard, and they attack you.  We will have to be ready for that, and weather the storm in the first 10 minutes.”  Notes Manah.

Sherwood Park will have their hands full against the Dragons and will hope there will not be a repeat performance of the last time they played the Dragons, a 3-0 loss in Sherwood Park on October 13th.

“Thought the first time we played them we didn't create nearly enough offensive scoring chances, and the game came down to special teams.  They scored two power play goals, and we weren't able to get on the board.  That was the difference in the hockey game.”  Said Manah on playing the Dragons.

The Dragons are 17-14-2 sitting in third place in the south with 36 points heading into Friday.

After Drumheller, the Crusaders attention will turn to the Olds Grizzlys.  A team they have faced and beaten this year, but Sherwood Park is expecting a much different Grizzly squad.

“We'll definitely expect a different team when we see Olds Saturday.  They've made some personnel changes up front with Chase Olsen returning, Cody Laskosky, and Josh Borynec.  They bring fire power up front, and again we'll be challenged defensively to play a sound game.”  Said Manah.

Laskosky, acquired on October 19th from Whitecourt has 13 points in 15 games with the Grizzlys so far.

Borynec, has seven points in 13 games with Olds since being acquired from the Drayton Valley Thunder, a part of a three-way trade on November 10th.

Although Olds is in last place in the South with a record of 13-20-1 and 27 points, they are only a pair of points behind the Calgary Canucks and Camrose Kodiaks for sixth place in the division, as well, three behind the Canmore Eagles for fifth.

Sherwood Park will have a bit of a personnel change heading into the weekend.

The team has added ’98 born Defenseman Tyler Jette to the roster.  The Minnesota native comes to the team from the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League.

Read the full release on Jette coming to Sherwood Park here.

“Jette has looked good so far in the first few days of practice.  Big kid at 6'3, 205 lbs.  He skates well, has good mobility, smart player, and has a great stick defensively.  We are looking forward to seeing him in game action.”  Says Manah.

The Crusaders will get a big injection of offense into their lineup as not only Forward Ty Readman will return to the lineup, but Defenseman Tyler Pang as well will make an appearance this weekend in either Drumheller or Olds.

“It’s very exciting for us.  It's seemed like a very long time since we had either of them in our line-up.  Readman will get the opportunity to get re-acquainted with Arjun Atwal on the same line, and hopefully they can build the chemistry from last year.  Pang may only get into one game out of the two, but he is eager to jump back into the line-up and contribute offensively five on five and on the power play.”  Points out Manah.

Readman has missed 11 of the last 13 games because of injury, while Pang has missed 11 straight games due to injury.

The Crusaders are 2-3-0 versus the Viterra South Division in 2017-18, if they are hoping to make a push for home ice in the 2018 AJHL Playoffs, a pair of wins in mid December would a long way.

-Story by Taylor Medak