*record as of March 3rd, 2017
The Sherwood Park Crusaders are looking to end the 2016-17 Regular Season on a positive note as they head out on the road for their final two games. Sitting in fifth place in the Viterra North Division with a record of 31-24-3 there is nothing that can be done in terms of bettering their position, as the Crusaders have known they would finish in that spot for some time.
Sherwood Park is coming off a thrilling, yet disappointing game, as they closed out the home portion of their schedule Wednesday night losing to the Drayton Valley Thunder 6-5 in a Shootout.
“I thought we came out of the gate slow in the first 10 minutes of the game, but the last 55 minutes including Overtime we felt we were the better team. We skated, competed, and the biggest thing is we never quit. We give the players a lot of credit for that.” Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
It was a back and forth type of game between the Crusaders and the Thunder, but unfortunately, Sherwood Park was constantly playing catch up as they allowed the first two Goals on the first four Thunder shots.
Certainly if the Crusaders can head into Grande Prairie and essentially play like they did Wednesday in the final 40 minutes and beyond, the group should be successful.
The Crusaders were certainly brought back down to earth last weekend as they traveled up to Grande Prairie for two games against the Storm.
Heading into last week’s action, the Crusaders were 3-0-0 against Grande Prairie and had outscored them 20-9. A change in venue and a hungry team certainly helped the Storm in picking up 7-5 and 4-3 (OT) wins last weekend.
“They've just been desperate. They knew what was on the line last weekend in terms of the Playoffs, and it'll be no different tonight with them still battling for sixth spot in the Division.” Noted Manah.
Currently the Storm are tied for sixth place in the Division with Drayton Valley, both teams clinched a Playoff spot Wednesday and certainly will look to better their positions in the standings this weekend.
Last week the Crusaders were torched by Storm Forward Michael Clarke, who scored four Goals and added an Assist in the two games at Revolution Place. Among many things, Coach Manah knows the Crusaders will need to play a complete game.
“Keys will be to continue to be better in the Defensive Zone, managing the puck correctly in all three Zones especially at the blue lines, and creating second opportunities by shooting smart in the Offensive Zone.” Says Manah on facing the Storm.
Sherwood Park will officially wrap up the Regular Season Saturday in Whitecourt against the Wolverines.
Whitecourt has completely dominated the Crusaders in the last two meetings, out scoring Sherwood Park 14-3 with both victories coming at the Sherwood Park Arena.
The Crusaders are hoping a change in venue can allow them to return the favor to the Wolverines at the Scott Safety Centre.
But it won’t be easy.
“It’s always a tough rink to play in, but so far we have a split. We will need to play a heavier game, and our work ethic will have to be there if we want to have a chance to get two Points.” Says Manah.
The Crusaders won 4-1 in Whitecourt back on December 16th, one of four Regulation losses on home ice for the Wolverines
As stated previously, this weekend means nothing when it comes to the standings for the Crusaders. It will be about working some kinks out and trying to generate momentum heading into the Playoffs next week. Ultimately, the coaching staff isn’t too concerned about Wins and Losses this weekend.
“For us we just want to play an all around team game. From our Goaltending out, we need to come together as a group and start preparing ourselves for the playoffs next week. This is a great opportunity to prepare ourselves for what'll be a tough first round opponent.” Notes Manah.
Barring any drastic incident, all signs point to another Post Season matchup against the Bonnyville Pontiacs.
Heading into Friday, the Pontiacs trail Spruce Grove by four Points and need to win both of their games, and hope the Saints lose their final two, to move to third place.
Bonnyville is in Drayton Valley Friday and travels to Grande Prairie Saturday, while Spruce Grove hosts Fort McMurray Friday and visits Lloydminster on Saturday.
-Story By Taylor Medak
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