The Sherwood Park Crusaders welcome the Calgary Canucks to the Sherwood Park Arena tonight in the Cru’s first game of the New Year. They closed out December with a 6-1 win over the Spruce Grove Saints back on the 30th at the Grant Fuhr Arena. The Crusaders remain atop the AJHL North Standings with a record of 33-3-0; meanwhile, the Calgary Canucks are basement dwellers in the AJHL South with a record of 5-33-2. I think we’ll see pretty quickly whether or not this will be a long night for the visitors.
Jordan Frey starts between the pipes for Sherwood Park, Frey comes into tonight posting a stellar GAA of 2.03, a 0.923 save percentage and a record of 13-2-0. The Canucks counter with Connor Martin; he has a GAA of 4.74, a 0.881 save percentage and a record of 3-14-2.
The Canucks aren’t much of an offensive threat; their leading scorer Jackson Zloty has just four goals and 11 assists on the year. We all know how powerful the Crusaders are in the offensive zone, out of the top 20 point-getters in the league, 5 of them play for Sherwood Park.
Despite a tonne of pressure from the Crusaders, it was the Canucks who opened the scoring at the 3:21 mark of the first period. Leighton Burns-Marion was in the right place as he blasted one in the slot past Jordan Frey, Damon Byers credited with the assist on the play.
Sherwood Park was given an opportunity for revenge as Carter Benoit was sent to the box for holding. After several solid chances, Carter Hart capitalized just a few seconds after the powerplay expired to tie the game at one. Jacob Franczak with the helper. The Crusaders are absolutely deadly on the powerplay with a success rate of 27.37% on the year for second-best in the league. Their puck movement is great, and they keep the pressure on, the puck only left the offensive zone once during the PP.
The Crusaders started to pepper Martin with shots, but it was Calgary who had higher quality chances, especially as the period came to a close. They were rewarded for their efforts after Dylan Clark picked up a rebound while Frey was still sprawled down in the crease. Jesse Carr and Jackson Kobelka with the assists.
We head into the second with Calgary up 2-1, the shot clock reads 18-16 for Sherwood Park.
Sherwood Park came out in the second with purpose. Putting two pucks on net in the opening seconds, and they were given a powerplay after Calgary’s Michael Bladon was given two for tripping, trying to stop a breakaway. Canucks netminder Connor Martin kept the door shut and kept his team up 2-1.
A solid zone entry followed up with some crisp passes tied the game 2-2, Connor Martin did his best to spread across the crease, but he had no chance. Some tic-tac-toe from Michael Benning to Ty Mueller let Blake Sydlowski put one home.
Not that they looked slow in the opening frame, but Sherwood Park was just flying in the second period. They increased their shot total to 30 before we hit we 11-minute mark, the Canucks added just two.
The visitors went on the man-advantage after Nicholas Magis went to the box for cross-checking; it seemed like a bit of a weak call from my perspective. Calgary didn’t even enter the offensive zone before Arjun Atwal scored shorthanded, he stole the puck in the neutral zone and headed in for a two-on-one with Carter Savoie to make it 3-2. The powerplay expired, and Calgary didn’t register a shot.
Other than a breakaway (where they missed the net) Calgary didn’t do much for the rest of the period. Sherwood Park spent the bulk of it in the offensive zone pouring on the shots. Arjun Atwal picked up a loose puck in Calgary’s corner and fed it to Carter Savoie sitting in the slot with just under a minute left in the second to make it 4-2 for the Cru. William Zapernick was also given an assist on the goal.
A scuffle broke out at the end of the period, but nobody ended up in the box. We head to the third 4-2 for Sherwood Park; the shot clock reads 38-23 in favour of the Crusaders.
Jordan Frey was awake in the third; he stopped a great chance after a bad pass was intercepted in the slot to keep the Cru in the lead.
The third was a lot like the second, Sherwood Park kept their foot on the gas and had a tonne of great chances. Calgary continued to struggle even to get a rare entry into the offensive zone. The third did get much more physical, though, especially from the Canucks. You could tell their frustration was building as they started to lay some hits.
After a big open-ice hit from Bryce Bader he dropped the gloves with Christian Aiello, no punches were landed though. They grappled before crashing to the ice. Both received two-minutes for roughing.
Not much else after that. Connor Martin made a stunning glove save to keep the game 4-2, he did an amazing job overall stopping 46 shots in a losing effort.
Sherwood Park wins by a final score of 4-2.
- The Crusaders make teams pay for every chance they get. Sherwood Park does a great job of limiting chances and clearing pucks, for every chance Calgary had tonight they had a handful of plays that ended up going nowhere.
- I always bring it up, but I can’t help it, Sherwood Park’s puck movement is incredible. Five-on-five or the man-advantage the tape to tape crispy passes are fun to watch. I guess tonight we can include the PK as well after Atwal and Savoie combined for a shorthanded goal.
- I do sort of have it down below as well, but it’s also a good thing to see the Cru turn things on after being down a goal. They let a much weaker team get the better of them, but they came out flying in the second and didn’t let up for the rest of the game.
- The tricycle race in the first intermission was the best of the season, right down to the wire for a photo finish.
- I’m not sure if the Crusaders just underestimated their opponents or just went easy on them, but the change in their game from the first to the second period was wild. They definitely didn’t play poorly in the first, but you could tell they weren’t messing around in the second period. I wonder how quickly this game would have gotten out of hand if they came out in the first as they did in the second.
- A disciplined game for the Cru just one penalty resulted in a powerplay for Calgary.
The Crusaders are back at it Sunday, in a matinee matchup versus the Canmore Eagles. Puck drop at 2:15 at the Sherwood Park Arena.