Currently on a three-game winning streak, the Crusaders welcomed the Drayton Valley Thunder to the Sherwood Park Arena to complete a Thanksgiving weekend homestand. It has been a wildly successful homestand as well. It got started on Friday with a tight, divisional win over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and followed it up with a 6-2 victory over the Drumheller Dragons.
There’s really been nothing but positives for the Crusaders through the first 12 games of the season. Their schedule has been rather relaxed considering that the only true elite team they’ve played this year is the Okotoks Oilers but you can only beat who they schedule you to play against and the Crusaders haven’t just been doing enough to get two points, on most nights, they’ve been straight up dominating the opposition.
Here’s how things went down this afternoon:
The Crusaders got off to a flying start this afternoon with a pair of goals within the first three minutes of the game. First, it was the team’s top line of Atwal/Savoie/Zapernick connecting for Zapernick’s ninth goal of the season. Just 20 seconds later they got another one, this time it was Jarred White finding the back of the net.
The first five minutes of this game was straight-up dominated by the home side. The Thunder didn’t manage to get a shot on goal until the 13:30 mark of the opening frame. The Cru would extend their lead one more time with Kaden Bryant jumping on a loose puck in the slot.
After that, the Thunder started to get some momentum back. It started with a powerplay opportunity with about ten minutes to go in the period. They didn’t score but they managed to get some puck possession under their belt and they got on the board shortly after the powerplay expired when Ty Whitford finished off an excellent passing play. The Thunder would get one more back shortly afterwards with rookie Grayson Reid getting his second of the season.
After a dominant start, the Crusaders simply let the Thunder back into this game.
The goal-scoring dried up a little bit in the second period but the one goal that was scored was an absolute beauty. Carter Savoie scooped up a pass from Ty Mueller and managed to fend off a Drayton Valley Thunder defenseman, who was draped all over him, drag the puck past an Eric Ward poke check attempt, and slide a backhander in along the ice.
From there, things started to get pretty heated. These two teams combined for 54 penalty minutes in the period with 42 of them being handed out with just over three minutes remaining after Davis Murray ran over Thunder goalie Eric Ward and sparked a pretty major melee.
Once things cooled down, and the blood got scraped off the ice (literally) play resumed and the Crusaders were able to run out the clock and head back into the room with their two-goal lead in-tact.
After a very eventful middle frame, these two teams delivered a rather boring final period, which is probably exactly what Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah wanted. They didn’t allow very many if any, high-danger chances for the majority of the period and really just kept the puck away from Carter Gylander as much as possible.
The Cru would add to their lead when Ty Mueller fired home a wrister, his third point of the game. Drayton Valley would capitalize on a powerplay with just over two minutes to go to make it a 5-3 game. Jarred White also threw one more home, his second of the game, in the final minute of the game to make it 6-3 for the Cru. That’s how things would end as the Crusaders win their fourth in a row and improve to 12-1-0 on the season.
- The top-line continues to be productive but today they got a couple of goals from lower in their lineup. If this team is going to push for a title, they’ll need to keep getting contributions from everyone on their roster.
- Carter Savoie continued his strong draft year with a beautiful goal to extend his goal-scoring streak to a league-high ten games. The only game he hasn’t scored in was the team’s second win of the season against Lloydminster.
- Carter Gylander didn’t have to make too many great saves, but he was solid tonight. He’s finding a consistent groove and I feel like these last two games have been his best two-game stretch of the season.
- I often forget that Ty Mueller is just 16-years-old. He plays such a smooth, steady game. You rarely see him make a mistake and I’m sure the Crusaders are hoping that a good offensive performance helps him get a little bit more confident with the puck on his stick. I think he has the potential to be one of the best players in the league within the next 12-18 months.
- The hot start to the game was great to see, but you could tell they took their foot off the gas a little bit after they went up 3-0. They’ve blown out a few teams this year and it felt like they thought this was just going to turn into ‘point-night’.
- The two big momentum-changing moments from a Drayton Valley perspective came after the Crusaders gave them looks on the powerplay. The Crusaders penalty kill has been good and while it didn’t allow a goal today, it did allow the Thunder to gain some steam.
The Crusaders will have the next three days off before heading up to Fort McMurray for a weekend set against the Oil Barons. It’s been a bit of a rough start to the year for the new-look Oil Barons who sit sixth in the North Division with a 4-7-1 record but they did play the Crusaders pretty tightly this past Friday so I’m expecting a pair of close games next weekend at the Casman Centre in Fort Mac.