It’s odd to say that a pair of games in early December have playoff implications, but this weekend could go a long way in determining the final standings in the AJHL’s North Division.
Heading into action tonight, the Crusaders are four points ahead of the Lloydminster Bobcats for the final playoff spot and tied with the Bonnyville Pontiacs for fifth.
Josh Dechaine got the start tonight as the Cru looked to snap out of their three-game losing skid and grab a crucial two points against the Bobcats.
On yesterdays edition of Inside The Cru, I blamed a poor powerplay, average goaltending and consistently being outshot by the opposition as reasons why the Crusaders haven’t been able to find success. Well, they’ve got off to a hot start tonight, in large part thanks to those three exact things.
The game was tight early on, but the Crusaders did a good job pushing the pace in my opinion. They were the better team in the opening frame, but you can tell that these two teams are close in the standings. Josh Dechaine made some big saves when the pressure was put on and the group in front of him put up a little run support late in the period.
Deklan Williams banged home a Brendan Kallis point shot with just over three minutes to go to put the Cru up by one. They would make it 2-0 with exactly a minute to go thanks to an Erik Miller powerplay goal.
They finished the period up 2-0 and leading the shot clock 12-9.
The Bobcats came out like a team that was trailing by two goals. They seemed to just have a bit of a jump and put on some pressure to start, but the Crusaders eventually took over again.
It looked like Sherwood Park was about to take over the game when they got a four-minute power play and they put on some really good pressure, but an errant pass from Erik Miller ended up in a shorthanded goal against. I’ll give the Crusaders credit though, they didn’t cave after the Bobcats cut the lead in half, they continued to pour on some pressure and really took control of the game again.
Things had been getting a little chippy and tempers boiled over when Deklan Williams dropped the gloves with Tyler Lowe. Whillians absolutely dropped Lowe with a right-handed blow and that sparked the Cru. They pinned Lloyd in their own end and eventually, Ryan Cox snapped home a wrister. The rocket from #25 put them up 3-1.
Bobcats came out strong in the final frame with a couple of nice chances. The Crusaders struggled to get it out of their own end with some sloppy plays. Joshua Dechaine bailed The Cru out on a few decent scrambles. Ryan Cox scored with 11 minutes left in the period, assisted by Brendan Kallis giving Sherwood Park a nice cushion.
Ryan Cox took a hooking penalty, and Bobcats kept the pressure on with a few good chances. Dechaine bailed the penalty kill out with a few scrambling saves. The Crusaders responded shortly after Arjun Atwal light the lamp assisted by Garrett Clegg. Ryan Cox responded again for a hat-trick, putting this one away, Ashton Casault and Brandon Wallis with the assists.
Have to give it to Lloyd though, they continued to keep the puck in Sherwood Parks end and they were finally rewarded with their efforts. Andrew Liwiski scored an absolute beauty from Carson Franklin. It wasn’t enough though.
- The powerplay has struggled lately, but they found a way to score tonight. Sometimes all a team needs is a little confidence with the man advantage, so hopefully, that goal sparks them.
- They did a much better job putting pucks on net than they have recently. They really dictated the pace in this one.
- Joshua Dechaine was great tonight, bailing The Cru out of a third period PK. He made 34 stops tonight.
- A hat-trick for Ryan Cox, what’s not to love?
- At times they got a little sloppy in their own end and couldn’t get the puck out clean.
- Bad positioning on the short handed goal.
- They allowed 36 shots against a weak team, Crusaders should be better.
- Thankfully Sherwood Park can score, because they had some sloppy plays and had trouble getting the puck out of their own end
The Cru will take on Bonnyville Sunday at 2:15 back at the Sherwood Park Arena. Another huge game standings wise as Bonnyville is nipping at their heels for the 5th spot in the division.
These two teams have met twice already this season and although they’ve split the series to this point but the Pontiacs have outscored Sherwood Park by a total of 12-3.