Currently on a three-game winning streak, and playing their best hockey of the season, the Crusaders welcomed the Lloydminster Bobcats to the Sherwood Park Arena for a matinee affair.
With it being ‘Hockey Hooky” day in Sherwood Park, the crowd was filled with rambunctious school kids, so the energy in the rink was absolutely fantastic.
The Crusaders have been torching their opponents as of late, outscoring the opposition 19-3 over the course of this three-game winning streak. The Bobcats roll into town having lost two of their last three.
Let’s wrap this one up:
From the first shift, the Crusaders were in control of this game. They were pinning the Bobcats in their own end and generating high-quality scoring chances.
They wouldn’t find a way to beat Lloydminster goalie Curtis Meger until the 10:56 mark when Carter Savoie tapped home a gorgeous Garrett Clegg pass. These two are both dangerous offensive players, and as long as they continue to click, the Cru will win a lot of hockey games.
The visitors would even things up with just over a minute to go in the period, on just their fourth shot of the period, but the game was only tied for a matter of seconds. Off the faceoff, at centre, Michael Benning fired the puck into the Lloydminster zone, and a combination of a bad bounce and an unsure Meger allowed William Zapernick to find the back of the net.
The home side re-establish a 2-1 lead and took it into the first intermission. All-in-all, it was a dominant opening frame from the Crusaders.
The Cru came out in the second period and kept up their solid pace. They were hitting the Bobcats with waves of offensive attacks, and they would extend their lead to 3-1 thanks to a goal from Cam Aucoin.
The Bobcats began their pushback about halfway through the period. Things started getting chippy after the whistles, and I don’t think that works in the Crusaders favour, especially considering how well they were playing, but I think that’s why Lloyd was able to start establishing a strong cycle. They would cut their deficit in half with 10:08 to go in the period.
After the goal, the Bobcats continued to push but some solid saves from Matt Berlin, who was forced to make 12 in the middle frame, kept the Crusaders lead intact.
In the final five minutes, the Cru began to find their game once again. They poured chances onto Meger and eventually regained their two-goal lead when Jacob Franczak deflected home a Tyler Jette Point shot.
They would get about four more ‘Grade A’ chances before the end of the period, but couldn’t capitalize on any of them.
After killing off an early penalty, the Crusaders would get a powerplay of their own after Bobcats defenseman Drew Warkentine threw up a late elbow on William Zapernick. It was a textbook headshot, and Warkentine deservedly got a five minute major and a game misconduct.
The Crusaders generated a handful of good looks, but they couldn’t find the back of the net. With 44 seconds to go in the original penalty, the Bobcats would send another body to the box giving Sherwood Park a two-man advantage.
Despite nearly a minute at 5-on-3, six total minutes on the powerplay, and a handful of good looks, the Cru could not extend their lead, and when the teams returned to even-strength, the Bobcats were still within just two goals.
In the final ten minutes, Matt Berlin was tested on multiple occasions and was a huge reason why the end of this game wasn’t a little more nerve-wracking for the home fans.
The Bobcats would get one final crack with the man-advantage with about three minutes to go, but the Crusaders stifled that attack as well. When the buzzer sounded, the Crusaders held a 4-2 lead. The win was the Crusaders fourth straight.
- The fourth line has become a real reliable option for Adam Manah. They can be trusted in almost any situation, and they do a great job of creating energy on the forecheck. They even got a goal today. That added layer of depth is incredibly valuable.
- I’ve really liked what Jayden Platz has brought to this team. He absolutely blew up a pair of Bobcats this afternoon, and it just seems like when he’s on the ice, the opposition struggles to generate scoring chances. He plays a simple defensive game, but it’s very effective at the AJHL level.
- One of the most admirable qualities of goaltender Matt Berlin is his ability to shake off a goal and string together some strong saves. When the Cru held a one-goal lead, he was at his best.
- They started to slip up in the middle part of the second period. I’m not sure if they’ve been doing it on the road, but in the games, I’ve attended, they have yet to go 60 minutes without having a significant ‘lull’ in their play. That stretch of five or ten minutes could be the difference in some very important games later in the season
- It seemed like whenever the Cru would go up by two goals, they would start engaging in some post-whistle antics. I don’t like seeing that from a team that has been dominating the play. All they really did was give Lloydminster a reason to ramp up their own level of play and get back some momentum.
- Never good to see anyone go down the way Will Zapernick went down. He got levelled with an incredibly dirty hit to the head and left the game. He’s been having an incredible season as well. He returned later in this third period, which was a fantastic sight.
The Crusaders will look to make it five straight on Sunday when they host the Fort MacMurray Oil Barons. The ‘MOB’ will be playing their third game in as many days so that fatigue could be a factor for them. No excuses for the Cru as they’ll be coming off a pair of off days.
The puck will drop at 2:15. TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE.