The Cru came into Saturday night’s matchup with the Thunder winning six of their eight games in February. The latest win came the night before with the 6-2 win on the road over Lloydminster. The win on Friday night put them in a tie with Bonnyville atop the North Division with 82 points a piece.
With one game left in the month the Cru were looking to wind things down in the right direction while they fight for their 41st win and position atop the division. Coming into the game Saturday, two players from the Cru looked to keep adding to their high-point totals. Carter Savoie and Garrett Clegg came into the game both in the top-10 in scoring in the league.
Here’s how it went down!
The first period opened with a fast pace and intensity. The Cru played a very physical opening frame throwing bodies left and right, however it was Thunder who got on the board first. Jeff Waronek of Drayton Valley through a beautiful pass through both Crusader defensemen to James Orban. Orban took off down the middle of the ice on the break away and buried it past Matt Berlin for the 1-0 lead.
The Cru would answer back after Jesse Pomeroy of the Thunder took a cross-checking penalty. The Cru set up perfectly on the power play with Carter Savoie dishing the puck to Arjun Atwal in the slot who one-timed it home to tie the game at one. The Cru never looked back after that.
Atwal scored his second of the game after Nick Bowman came up with the turnover at the Thunder blue-line and entered the offensive zone. Bowman threw a cross-ice to Atwal who fired a rocket of a slap shot past the Thunder goalie for the 2-1 lead. The Cru would make it 3-1 when Cameron Aucoin chipped in a rebound between the post and the Thunder net-minder’s skate.
The scoring continued throughout the period with another goal coming two minutes after the third with some more magic from Arjun Atwal. Carter Savoie sniped a shot into the back of the net from the slot on a beauty set-up pass from Atwal. It didn’t end there with Garrett Clegg sniping one home with under two minutes left in the period sending the Cru into the dressing room with a 5-1 lead.
Aside from the opening Thunder goal the Cru owned the first period not just on the scoreboard but physically as well. They out-shot the Thunder 16-6 after one period.
The Thunder opted to make a goaltender change in the second, pulling Luke Lush in favour of Rory Dumelie.
Things slowed down a tad in the second period but the Cru maintained their dominating control of the game. They outshot Drayton Valley one again by a count of 11-9. Things got a little chippier in the middle frame with a couple of scrums resulting in roughing penalties and a total of six penalties in the period.
After a Drayton Valley high-sticking penalty the Cru would capitalize on the power play. Zach Kaiser sniped home a cross-ice pass from none other than Arjun Atwal, who’s point-filled night continued. Nick Bowman buried one on the five-hole, once again on the power play giving the Cru a 7-1 lead into the third period.
Drayton Valley showed a few signs of life in the third period. After an early tripping penalty from Brennan McDonnell, Tanner Hopps would chip one in for the Thunder trimming the lead down to 7-2. Both teams then exchanged goals with The Cru taking the goal back when Jack Hamly cleaned up a rebound pushing the lead back out to six at 8-2.
The Thunder took advantage of another Cru turnover in the offensive zone with around five minutes left. James Orban picked off a pass in his defensive zone and took off on a break away. Orban slid his second of the game past Berlin before running into the Cru net minder for the 8-3 score.
The Cru would take it right back a few minutes later when Reid Irwin slapped one through the five-hole for the 9-2 score and final. Arjun Atwal would add an assist on the goal for his fifth point of the night. The Cru finished the command victory giving them 84 points on the year and first place in the North Division.
- Goals, goals and more goals. The Cru held heavy pressure through most of the game and it resulted in a total of 9 goals on the night.
- Those goals came at the hand of a heavy offensive pressure. The Cru came out flying early despite going down by a goal early and held that intensity all night. They outshot the Thunder by a total of 36-22.
- The Cru displayed a great penalty kill all night. The Cru were down a man seven times and killed off six of them.
- Matt Berlin had another solid night only allowing three goals on 22 shots and two of them came on a breakaway off a turnover.
- Arjun Atwal had a night to remember with 5 points on the night 2G-3A.
- Bonnyville lost to Grande Prairie Saturday night allowing the Cru win to push them into sole possession of first place in the North division.
- It will be hard to find negative things from this game but here goes nothing! Things quieted down a bit in the second period for the Cru but they were able to capitalize when they needed to to seal the win.
- The Cru took a few too many penalties although they played a solid game. They especially took too many in the third period with a total of three.
- The third period was their worst, at least early on. They took two penalties in the first seven minutes with one leading to a Thunder goal. Drayton Valley was also able to capitalize later on in the period. The intensity dropped a bit for the Cru late in the game.
The Cru will wrap up the season when they take on Whitecourt on the road Tuesday night from the Scott Safety Centre before returning home Friday to take on Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie on next Saturday. Every win matters now with the playoffs fast approaching and the Cru finding themselves in a heated battle for first place.