*record as of January 12th
SHERWOOD PARK, AB – Sometimes in the game of hockey, your toughest opponent can be yourself. That’s what it seemed like this past weekend for the Sherwood Park Crusaders to open up the 2018 calendar year.
“The frustrating part was the inconsistency to our game. We would look really good in spurts, and then not so good at other times. Along with the fact we blew three leads in the two games combined doesn't really go over to well. We work so hard to get the lead, and we have to understand the importance of keeping that lead.” Said Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah on his squad’s rocky 6-4 win over Grande Prairie and abysmal 5-1 loss to Fort McMurray last weekend.
Sherwood Park had a pair of two goal leads against the Storm in Friday’s win, and allowed five unanswered goals against the Oil Barons after opening the scoring 10 minutes into Sunday’s game.
“I thought we handed them the game after we went up 1-0. Three out of the five goals against were blatant turnovers, and it just comes back to managing the puck more efficiently. We did a poor job of that five on five and on our power play. Both of those need to get cleaned up before this weekend.” Noted Manah.
It was evident Sunday that the Crusaders were their own worst enemy, you do have to tip your hat to the Oil Barons on playing a solid game and capitalizing on the mistakes of the Crusaders.
It was an interesting week at practice as the CJHL/AJHL trade deadline loomed mid-week, on January 10th teams had to finalize their roster to a maximum of 23 players.
There were not a whole lot of moves done compared to other years, but some big trades went down and the Crusaders were active making multiple deals.
GM Kyle Chase was able to shore up a few things on the Crusader roster as he added ’98 born Forward Tyson Gruninger from the Spruce Grove Saints in exchange for future considerations and then swung a deal with the Olds Grizzlys, sending Defenseman Tyler Pang to Olds for ’99 born Goaltender Josh Brindza.
The deal adds some depth and size to the Crusaders Forward lineup and the acquisition of Brindza avoids the Crusaders having a merry-go-round of affiliate backup Goaltenders behind Brandon Vogel as Joshua Dechaine has been permanently recalled by the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.
“Kyle did a great job of acquiring a goalie and a forward that brings a lot of speed to our line-up. We are excited about the moves for a couple reasons. Depth amongst our Forward core, and Josh coming in will help push Vogel in practice every day. For us we have plenty of options to play around with, and mix and match our line-up whatever way we see fit. It also gives us the luxury to have guys push for more ice time with having a deep forward group.” Said Manah on his new pieces.
Read the full story on the Crusaders trade deadline day here.
The focus now for the Crusaders shifts to a pair of opponents from the Viterra South Division in the Calgary Mustangs and Canmore Eagles, two teams that the Crusaders aren’t entirely familiar with at this point in the year.
Friday night the Calgary Mustangs pay their first and only visit of the season to the Sherwood Park Arena to take on the Crusaders.
Historically over the past couple of years the Crusaders have had the Mustangs number, along with the rest of the entire league.
But things have changed just west of downtown Calgary, GM and Head Coach Tyler Drader has revamped the franchise and a win Friday night would equal the entire win total from the last two seasons combined.
The Mustangs have an excellent Forward crop, a young blue line that has some strong veteran presence and solid Goaltending.
“We know they have a team that has a lot of speed, and talent throughout their line-up. They have solid goaltending in the pipes no matter which guy plays, therefore we'll be challenged in a lot of areas of our game tomorrow night. We expect it to be a very tough opponent.” Notes Manah on Friday’s opponent.
The Mustangs also made a big move on deadline day, adding Forward Ryley Smith from South Shore of the Maritime Hockey League. Smith had been with Whitecourt and Olds this season, appearing in 31 game between the two clubs.
Smith is now the second leading scorer on the Mustangs with 32 points, five behind Joseph Karpyshyn.
Karpyshyn, with 22 goals, is one of five Mustangs that have double digit goals in 2017-18.
On the back end, the Mustangs have three 2000 born players and veterans such as Nathan Walker, Salvatore Scalise and Tyler Lentz are enjoying a more positive year in Calgary.
In goal the Mustangs have one of the top goaltending recruits from the summer, Grande Prairie native Ashton Abel was one of the AMHL’s top goalies in 2016-17 and boast a .917 save percentage in 21 appearances as well as a pair of shutouts in his 12 wins.
Calgary also have sophomore Goaltender Joey May in their stable. May was acquired earlier in the year from the Camrose Kodiaks.
The Crusaders will have to earn their goals as May and Abel have a combined .911 save percentage so far this season.
After Friday night’s contest, the Crusader will host the Canmore Eagles.
The teams have met this season, at the AJHL showcase with the Crusaders winning 6-4.
Both teams are much different now, especially the Crusaders as they had seven players no longer on their roster play in the September 28th game in Camrose.
“The last time we saw them at Showcase our power play was clicking. They scored us two goals in that game, and we were successful when we were firing a lot of pucks on goal, and really working them in their own end. That'll be no different come Saturday, and we know they've had a good first half of the season. It'll be a great test for us again.” Said Manah on playing the Eagles.
Canmore is in a bit of a different spot than they were this time last season, but still right in the thick of things as they are entrenched in the log jam that is third to seventh place in the south.
Six points separate the third place Drumheller Dragons to the seventh place Camrose Kodiaks. The Eagles also have 36 points heading into this weekend’s action.
The Eagles are led by a pair of brothers this season, second year Forward Colton and 2001 born Alex have 35 and 32 points respectively.
Canmore has also been able to generate offense from the back end with veteran Travis Verveda and Jarell Pinchuk having both over 20 points.
Canmore visits Spruce Grove Friday prior to coming to Sherwood Park.
For the Crusaders, this weekend provides opportunity where there is no doubt they should be able to pick up four points as they hope to chase down Grande Prairie for fourth spot in the north. Sherwood Park trails the Storm by three points for the final home ice playoff spot.
Head Coach Adam Manah knows that if the Crusaders take care of their own business, they will be successful.
“We just need to manage the puck better than we did last weekend. Our goaltending will have to be better, and our special teams will have to be going if we want to have success in these upcoming games.”
-Story by Taylor Medak
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