*record as of January 21st
It was a tough pill to swallow for the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Wednesday night as they fell 7-4 to their rivals, the Bonnyville Pontiacs.
An opportunity was squandered to get closer to the top teams in the division and now depending on the weekend results, a fifth place finish can seem more likely.
“We were disappointed with the result Wednesday. [Bonnyville] simply outworked, outskated and out competed us.” Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
The Crusaders were outclassed in almost every facet possible.
“They were the much hungrier team and they deserved the two Points. We had an opportunity to climb within one Point of them and let a chance slip away from us.” Added the Crusader Coach.
At one point in Wednesday’s game the Crusaders flirted with a comeback but it wasn’t in the cards, Manah is hoping his team can take that desperation into Sunday’s contest against Grande Prairie.
“Despite not playing well, we still found a way to battle back to get within one in the third Period. It was good to see us not quit even though we were having an off night.” Pointed out Manah.
With the win the Pontiacs increased their lead for fourth place in the Viterra North Division by five Points. As mentioned, depending on what occurs this weekend, the Pontiacs could leave the Crusaders in the dust with a nine Point lead as they host Sherwood Park’s Sunday opponent, the Grande Prairie Storm, Friday and Saturday night.
Once done with Bonnyville, the Storm will make their second appearance at the Sherwood Park Arena in the last 18 days.
Grande Prairie picked up a Point in the January 4th game that saw the Crusaders win in Overtime 6-5 but the Storm sure gave Sherwood Park a scare.
“We didn’t like our effort the last time we played Grande Prairie. Our Goaltending struggled and we looked out of sorts at times with that one being our first game after the Christmas break.” Manah Says.
Sherwood Park has a few games under their belt now and a difficult loss in their last game should provide enough motivation to come out with a solid effort.
“We need to compete harder and be harder to play against. We will have to be much better defensively limiting time and space, and separating the man from the puck in our own end. We will have to create more offensively by shooting for second chances and getting to the hard areas to score.” Says Manah on the keys against the Storm.
Top to bottom, Sherwood Park has to be much better on Sunday. Specifically Defensemen Ben Sowa and Chase Torontow, who were on the ice for the Pontiacs first four Goals and barely saw the ice in the third Period.
Goaltender Zac Klassen will look to have a much more consistent effort as he allowed six Goals on 45 shots against the Pontiacs.
Sherwood Park can’t take the Storm lightly even though they will be playing their third game within 43 hours. Grande Prairie will be desperate in an effort to pick up Points and try to distance themselves from the Drayton Valley Thunder and the Lloydminster Bobcats, as two playoff spots are up for grabs between those three squads.
Sunday’s contest will mark the end of a four Game home stand for the Crusaders before they head out on the road next weekend for their first visit to Fort McMurray this season.
-Story By Taylor Medak
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