SHERWOOD PARK, AB - The Sherwood Park Crusaders will look to get back in the win column Wednesday night as they face a familiar foe on the road in the Drayton Valley Thunder.
The Crusaders are coming off back to back losses this past weekend courtesy of the Whitecourt Wolverines and the defending AJHL Champions, the Brooks Bandits.
“I thought we were pretty good on the road in Whitecourt Friday. We played as good of a game as we could, and it was a turnover at the blue line that led to the game winner for them. On Saturday against Brooks we thought we played a good first period, but then completely backed off our pressure in the final 40 minutes of the game. We stopped skating, and basically watched Brooks play the game.” Says Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
Consistency is what is lacking in the Crusaders game right now. A great effort Friday in the 3-1 loss in Whitecourt, couldn’t be generated into success in the 6-3 loss Saturday against Brooks at the Sherwood Park Arena.
If Sherwood Park is to keep pace in the Viterra North Division, the roller coaster of play must be evened out.
“Obviously we want to string some wins together in a row, but we also know that we have a young group that is continuing to learn every day. We as a group can continue to work on that in practice, and individually players have to prepare themselves accordingly so that they can be the best they can be every single night.” Added Manah.
In reality, because of the result in Bonnyville last Tuesday, the Crusaders have lost three games in a row and a huge factor in why that has been, is the power play.
Sherwood Park has gone 0/10 on the man advantage in the last three games, plus they’ve allowed two short handed goals against.
“Need to simplify. We aren't shooting the puck nearly enough, not having smart entries to re-gain puck control, and were not swarming the puck if we do lose possession in the zone. Our power play needs to do a better job of outworking the opposition’s penalty kill.” Says Manah on his team’s power play.
It was thought that the Crusaders could get out of the power play slump on Saturday against the Bandits, as Brooks is near the bottom of the league when it comes to penalty kill efficiency, they could not and now will have to see if in Drayton Valley they can rekindle to some magic.
Sherwood Park was 4/11 in the home and home to open up the 2017-18 season against Drayton Valley.
Since opening weekend, it’s been an up and down ride for the Crusaders. For Drayton Valley, they have yet to find their groove.
The Thunder have lost six straight games and sit in the bottom of the Viterra North Division with a record of 1-9-0. They have yet to win a game in regulation and have scored a league low 17 goals while allowing a league high 53.
“Drayton Valley challenged us on the opening weekend with their speed, work ethic, how hard they compete, and how physical they played the body. We have to be ready for that again, and we fully expect now that we are a month into the season that they have continued to progress and get better as well.” Says Manah on the Thunder.
October 10th was the deadline for AJHL teams to return Midget aged players to their respective programs. The Crusaders had seven Midget aged players, and all will continue with the team in 2017-18. A sign that the team has recruited an excellent crop of young talent.
Some of those young players will be getting an opportunity on the blue line. Defenseman Ben McLeod has been suspended for five games after being assessed a five minute major penalty for a direct blow to the head on Brooks Bandits Forward Tyler Carangelo. The hit was delivered just as the Bandit veteran had scored. Carangelo needed medical attention and assistance to leave the ice surface on Saturday. The Hamden, Connecticut native has been released from hospital and is on the road to recovery in Brooks.
“100% it's an opportunity for our young defensemen to step in and do a job. They gained some valuable experience in the game against Brooks with McLeod being out of the game late in the 1st period. We feel confident we have plenty of guys on the back end that can do a good job for us, and will fill the void for Ben during the five games he is out.” Says Manah on McLeod’s absence.
A win for the Crusaders will go a long way as it would give their group confidence heading into Friday’s contest against a very good Drumheller Dragons squad.
-Story By Taylor Medak
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