photo via Target Photography
Looking for their first win of the season, the Crusaders returned to home ice for their third game of the regular season. Their opponents tonight: the undefeated Bonnyville Pontiacs who are coming off a pair of wins over the Whitecourt Wolverines.
The Crusaders also welcomed back defenseman Tyler Jette and goalie Matt Berlin, who were released from their WHL clubs last week. The 20-year-old Jette was named the teams’ captain earlier today and was rocking the ‘C’ for his season debut tonight.
Both these players have Crusaders fans salivating, they’re going to dominate the AJHL this season.
It was a new look Crusaders against a very strong opponent. Let’s break it all down:
In the opening frame, it was Crusaders who looked like the undefeated team. They came out of the gate strong and quickly got their first powerplay of the night, which they promptly capitalized on. William Zapernick got credit for the goal while Tyler Jette snagged his first point of the season.
The goals didn’t stop there, by the time the first period ended the Crusaders had grabbed a 3-0 lead thanks to goals by Brett Wieschorster (his first as a Crusader) and Arjun Atwal (3rd of the year).
Think I was overhyping Tyler Jette? Well, he grabbed an assist on every goal in the opening frame. He wasn’t just dominant on the scoresheet either. His ability to control the pace of the game and move the puck up ice efficiently is second-to-none.
Matt Berlin also stopped each of the ten shots he faced.
The middle frame wasn’t quite as exciting. Bonnyville seemed to have found their legs, and it resulted in a very back-and-forth period. Almost half the first period was spent with one team on the powerplay, and that meant a lack of ice time for the teams’ fourth line of Deklan Whillans, Cam Aucion, and Brayden Hyland but they got some minutes in the second, and I was very impressed with them. They worked a solid forecheck and managed to get faceoffs in Bonnyville’s end, which is a great thing from a fourth line.
The Pontiacs started to find their game as the period continued on and were looking more like a team that had won their first two games. Credit to the Crusaders for bending and not breaking though, they allowed 15 shots, but only a small handful of those were quality chances.
Apart from that, there really wasn’t much going on. Lots of whistles for offsides and goalies stopping play really killed the flow of the game.
For the longest time it looked like the score was going to hold at 3-0, but with just 22 seconds to go in the period, Todd Scott jumped on a puck in the offensive zone, walked in, and let go a quick wrister that went off the post and in. An absolute back-breaker for the Pontiacs as the Cru extended their lead to 4-0.
It didn’t take long into the third period for Bonnyville to end Matt Berlin’s shutout bid. Just under five minutes in, the Pontiacs tipped a point shot through Berlins legs to cut their deficit to three.
The Crusaders didn’t let the goal take away their momentum, they continued to push the pace and generated more and more scoring chances. But things started to slip in the final ten minutes as the team got into some penalty trouble.
First Matt Benning went to the box, but the Crusaders were able to kill it off. Immediately after Benning came out of the box, Jacob Franczak took a tripping penalty in the defensive zone. The Crusaders looked exhausted trying to kill this penalty, and there was only so much Berlin could do before a puck squeaked past him.
With the under five minutes to go, and their lead cut to two, the Crusaders continued to pour on the offence. They hit one more post, then with the goalie pulled, Carter Savoie managed to get a partial breakaway and was credited with a goal after being hauled down.
With a pair of high-calibre additions to their lineup, the Crusaders get their first win of the year. 5-2 the final.
- The Crusader’s powerplay has been clicking very well this season. They’re 6 for 15 now on the season, and even when they aren’t scoring goals, they’re consistently generating chances.
- If Matt Berlin sees it, he will stop it. On top of that, his ability to control rebounds is absolutely tremendous. He pushes the puck away from traffic and makes it look effortless. He made 39 saves in the winning effort.
- Four goals on 36 shots was nice to see, but on top of that, they hit four goalposts. They were looking dangerous all night.
- Tough to knit-pick a win like this, but there were times when Bonnyville controlled the play for a considerable amount of time. The Crusaders were able to stop them from getting to high-danger parts of the ice, but if they could improve on their ability to break up a cycle, it would be incredibly beneficial to them.
- Their last penalty kill did not go well. They need to be more disciplined, and when they are on the PK, they need to be better at getting the puck out of their end.
- There weren’t a lot of ‘Grade A’ chances for the Pontiacs, but the Crusaders allowed far too many shots to reach Matt Berlin. He stopped most of them, but 41 shots is too high a number for my liking.
The Crusaders will be looking for the same result when they travel to Bonnyville for a rematch of tonight’s game. Puck drop is set for 7:30 pm from the RJ Lalonde Arena. Before then, you can tune into Inside The Cru tomorrow afternoon, right here on BTI.