FINAL SCORE: SHERWOOD PARK CRUSADERS 4 OKOTOKS OILERS 0
The Cru were coming off two dominant wins over the past week, beating Bonnyville and Grande Prairie by a combined score of 13-3. The Okotoks Oilers were hot as well, winning 5 of their last 6 games before tonight.
For how well these two teams had been playing recently, we had a fairly boring first period. I could count the amount of high danger chances between both teams on one hand, which is disappointing for a Saturday night game between two hot teams.
For all the yawns that the Cru gave fans early, they definitely made up for in the second. They scored early and often with goals from Younghans, Atwal, Dykstra and Readman. They simply dominated the Oilers and pinned them in their own end for a strong majority of the period. Okotoks still got a few chances, and when they did Klassen was money, making a series of sprawling saves that had this crowd buzzing. It was a near perfect 20 minutes stretch after a snooze-fest of a first.
The third period was a little more even matched, Okotoks seemed to wake up a little bit and brought some pressure. The Cru did a good job of limiting their chances for the most part. They also didn’t take very many risks and stayed on the defensive side of the puck which is exactly what you should be doing in when you’re up 4-0 against a team as dangerous as Okotoks. All in all a clean third for the Cru allowed them to hold onto the lead and pick up their third straight win!
- Ty Readman was buzzing early on tonight. He was skating hard (as usual) and wasn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas (again, as usual). He’s a very solid player, shame he didn’t a Junior A Challenge invite.
- Cam Reagan and Jesse Zaharichuk both look good in the white and green, very good additions to this team. Some will say you shouldnt mess with a winning line-up but Kyle Chase saw a chacne to improve this team and he did exactly that. Two great additions.
- The newly acquired Cam Reagen looks very good on the ice. He is a complete defender who can hit, pass, skate and shoot very well. He gives a reliable first pass, something this Crusader’s blueline could use. I would even go as far to say he might be their best defender by the end of the season.
- The sign of a confident Zac Klassen? He challenges shooters and comes out to the top of his crease. He was doing that early and often tonight. This was probably the best game I’ve seen from Klassen.
- The Jesse Zaharichuk-Brendan Stafford-Darcy Zaharichuk (which I will now refer to as the Z-Z-Staff line) had a really strong shift and produced 2 of the Cru’s best chances in the first. I was impressed with them tonight.
- Speaking of Brendan Stafford, he was very good on the penalty kill today, made some real gutty plays and was a big reason why the teams PK was solid.
- That first goal was absolutely gorgeous. Readman displayed some sweet patience to set up a dirty give and go between Oszythko and Younghans. That line loves scoring goals and you could see it on their faces (and with their celebrations), they were having fun out there.
- Atwal was strong tonight as well. He got his first goal simply by throwing the puck on net, proving why you should always be trying to up your Corsi. Then he set up Matt Dykstra after being thrown to his knees. An incredible effort.
- All four lines were rolling after the first period, which is instrumental to putting together stretches like the Cru have lately.
- With his two points in the second, Ty Readman cracks the top 10 in AJHL scoring!
- Some big hits tonight from Cam Reagen and Ben McLeod. Gave the crowd some life!
- Klassen was breaking up passes and coming out of his net to play the puck, another sign of a confident goalie. A well-deserved shutout for him! Happy to see him getting into a groove here.
- You’re a hot team, playing one of the league’s best in your own barn on a Saturday night, there is no reason to come out as flat as the Crusaders did. They needed more life early on.
- Turnovers on turnovers on turnovers. I lost count of them, some really sloppy plays by the Crusaders in the first, lucky it didn’t cost them.
- Some bad changes, times where the Cru held onto the puck for too long. If they can iron out those wrinkles they will be a legit threat to go deep this year. But they to cut down on the frequency of those mental errors.
- It was a good night, but I still want to see this team put together a more complete performance, tonight was close.
- I felt like the powerplay could have been a little better today, didn’t affect the outcome of the game so not a huge deal tonight. Maltby coming back should spark it a little.
- Things got a little dirty in the third period, I’d personally like to see the refs call it a little closer, even if it’s a 4-0 game. If they controlled things a little better that little blow-up in the third could have been avoided.
THE TURNING POINT
I’ll go ahead and give tonight’s turning point to the team’s penalty kill. They were tested late in the first period and came through thanks to some nice saves from Zac Klassen and a great effort from Brendan Stafford. It might seem small, but if they had gone down 1-0, Okotoks would have had all the momentum heading into the intermission instead we saw Sherwood Park come out firing in the second frame. I don’t think that would have been the case if that penalty wasn’t killed.
The Crusaders are back at it tomorrow as they take on the Brooks Bandits. The Bandits have been a powerhouse so far in the AJHL’s South Division, winning 20 of their first 26 games. Puck drop is at 2:15, so head on down to the Sherwood Park Arena and see if the Cru can stay hot against one of the leagues best.