photo via Target Photography
The Sherwood Park Crusaders host the Okotoks Oilers tonight at the Sherwood Park Arena.
The Cru remain on top of the AJHL North, boasting a record of 26-3-0, at the other end of the rink the Crusaders have some stiff competition with the Oilers. They’re having a pretty good season, currently second in the AJHL South at 26-4-2.
Sherwood Park bounced back on Saturday with a 6-3 win over the Spruce Grove Saints, while Okotoks are on a three-game winning streak.
Special teams could be the difference tonight; both teams are in the top 5 when it comes to the man advantage and penalty kill. The Crusaders’ league-best PK will be put to the test, as the Oilers have the league’s 5th best powerplay. The man-advantage won’t be easy either, Sherwood Park is 4th in the league, but Okotoks’ penalty kill is 5th.
The Cru will be missing several key pieces as Michael Benning, Carter Savoie, and Carter Gylander are in Dawson Creek for the World Junior A Challenge, representing Team Canada West.
To fill the gaps, Billy Sowa is making his Crusaders debut; the blueliner was picked up from the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL. Liam Hughes and Ashton McNelly also draw into the lineup. McNelly is from the AAA Rangers of Fort Saskatchewan, and Hughes is from CAC.
Jordan Frey starts in net for Sherwood Park, coming into tonight he has a 0.916 save percentage and a GAA of 2.11. Okotoks counters with Ashton Abel, he’s second in the league with a 1.96 GAA and a 0.920 save percentage, third-best in the AJHL.
The wifi is down in the arena, making my life a little more difficult. Let’s hope this isn’t a bad omen for the boys in black.
Not a great start for the Crusaders, as Okotoks scores less than two minutes into the period. Brayden Morrison put one past Jordan Frey, assisted by Brandon Machado, and Carson Dyck. Sherwood Park was caught with some poor defensive coverage on the play.
A powerplay opportunity for Sherwood Park as Tucker McRae gets two for boarding. A very cold start for the Cru as they give up two shorthanded shots. They got a shot off in the second half of the PP, but overall a wasted powerplay for Sherwood Park.
Jordan Frey made some key saves to keep his team in it, but the boys in front of him aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. The Crusaders just can’t seem to get anything going in the offensive zone; the Oilers are doing a pretty good job of clogging up the neutral zone and turning away a lot of the Cru’s entry attempts at the blue line.
Cru rookie Billy Sowa got two in the box for a hook on an Oilers’ breakaway to give the visitors their first powerplay. Despite a rough first period, the Crusaders penalty kill looks pretty good. The Cru got their 3 and 4th shots of the period on shorthanded opportunities, but no goals for the home team.
We wrap up the first period with the Oilers up 1-0, the shot clock also reads in favour of Okotoks 19-4. The Crusaders are in for a long night if they can’t limit Okotoks’ chances and get more pucks to the net.
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The Cru looked a little more alive to start the second. Nicholas Magis had an open net, but he hit the post as Oilers netminder Abel was caught out of position. It only took them about 3 minutes to double their shot total from the first period; clearly, Sherwood Park is awake for the second.
William Zapernick made it 1-1 with a nice shot five-hole on a breakaway. He was sprung with a gorgeous pass from Arjun Atwal, Reid Irwin also with a helper on the play.
The Crusaders were given a powerplay after a high stick from Jack Works; the Crusaders put one shot on net before William Zapernick made it 4 on 4 for 1:32 with an interference call. Both penalties expired, and we remain tied 1-1.
Jarred White spent a few minutes on the ice after a huge collision in the Oilers zone. He did leave the ice under his own power.
Thankfully White wasn’t gone long; he made it 2-1 for the Crusaders after William Zapernick picked up a rebound from Arjun Atwal and fed White in front of the net. He beat Ashton Abel blocker side top shelf.
Sherwood Park’s offence wakes up in the second period; we head into the third with the Crusaders up 2-1. They still need to get more shots on the net though; I felt there were too often looking for the pass instead of just putting it on the net.
However, the Cru did a much better job of limiting the Oilers’ shots; the clock shows 25-16 for Okotoks.
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Two minutes into the third Max Wutzke heads to the box for a trip; it did prevent a near breakaway opportunity from the Oilers. A strong penalty kill from Sherwood Park keeps it 2-1.
Sherwood Park gets their turn on the man advantage after a hooking call on Oilers defenseman Nic Draffin. After some solid puck movement, the Cru made it 3-1. William Zapernick got his second of the game, Arjun Atwal and Mathew Shatsky with the assists on the play.
Still not a tonne of shots from the Crusaders, but they are cashing in on their limited opportunities. The passing and puck cycling looks much better this period, and they’re keeping the Oilers out of the offensive zone.
A flukey goal added to Sherwood Park’s lead. Jarred White must be feeling better he had a blast from the point that bounced off the glass behind the net and then off of Ashton Abel’s back. It was White’s 21st goal of the season to make it 4-1, no assists on the play.
Brandon Machado received two minutes for goaltender interference, to put the Crusaders on the PP. He wasn’t happy with the call, but it was pretty clear from up here in the bar. A couple of nice chances but the score stays 4-1.
More penalty trouble for Okotoks, Sherwood Park gets a PP after Jack Works laid a crosscheck from behind. Carter Hart capitalized with a blast from the blue line to make it 5-1, and pretty much put this one to bed. Max Wutzke with an assist on the goal.
The Oilers got a pride goal with less than a minute left in the game. Max Wutzke went to the box on a holding call, and Brayden Morrison quickly made it 5-2 for his second of the night, Brandon Machado and Carson Dyck with the assists.
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- Jordan Frey looked great and kept his team in the game during an awful opening period; he finished the night with 31 saves.
- The Cru was able to turn things around after a terrible first, they definitely could have put more pucks on net, but limiting the shots as the game went on made the difference.
- As good as the Crusaders looked by the end of the game, the Oilers seemed to deflate by the final buzzer. The Okotoks’ forecheck was very aggressive to start the game, but lost steam as it went on.
- Other than the first period, the passing looked smooth and crisp as always, especially on the powerplay, which went 2 for 5 tonight.
- Jarred White took a huge hit but soldiered on for a 2 goal performance.
- William Zapernick finished with three points with a goal and two assists.
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- A very slow start in this game, the Crusaders gave up a goal in less than 2-minutes, and the offence looked anaemic for the rest of the opening period. Four shots on net are not enough to start a game, especially when half of your shots come on the PK.
- A slow start in Sherwood Park’s own zone as well. Jordan Frey turned away all but one in the first, but the Cru let 19 shots go in the first period alone.
The Crusaders host the Spruce Grove Saints Friday, December 13 at the Sherwood Park arena.