After being handed just their fourth loss of the season Wednesday versus Whitecourt, Sherwood Park bounced back into the win column Friday night in Bonnyville with a 4-2 win over the Pontiacs. They’re looking to put together another long win streak as they host the Grande Prairie Storm in a Sunday matinee matchup. Sherwood Park remains in first place in the AJHL North at 36-4-0, 10 points ahead of the second-place Spruce Grove Saints. The visiting Storm is sixth in the North with a record of 16-19-4. Grande Prairie will likely be desperate for a win, after winning four of six games in December, they have just one win in four games to start 2020.
The Cru will need some help from their depth guys this afternoon as both Michael Benning and Carter Savoie are at the Top Prospects Game in Hamilton.
Jordan Frey will start in net for the Crusaders, he comes into the matinee matchup with a 14-2-0 record, a GAA of 2.02, and save percentage of 0.924. At the other end of the rink, Grande Prairie counters with Kaeden Lane. The 18-year-old from Medicine Hat is having a better half to the season, after several games letting in 4, 5, and even 6 goals, Lane hasn’t let in more than 3 since November 15th. He posts a record of 7-9-2, with a GAA of 3.27, and a 0.888 save percentage.
The Crusaders looked a little skittish to start the game. Grande Prairie did a much better job of moving the puck through the neutral zone and created some turnovers at Sherwood Park’s blue line as the Cru were trying to clear. The Storm put a couple of pucks on net, but Frey kept them out.
Sherwood Park got their first shot on net on the powerplay as Nathaniel Bierd was given two minutes for boarding. Some solid puck movement and playmaking from the Crusaders and they were rewarded for their efforts. Jacob Kendall scored just as the powerplay was finishing to make it 1-0 for Sherwood Park, Max Wutzke and Tanner Fincaryk with the assists on the goal.
That gave the Cru some energy, and with some big solid checks from both sides, the game started to get a little more aggressive, but it was Sherwood Park who started to take over.
Arjun Atwal made a nice pass in the slot to Reid Irwin who put it past Storm netminder Kaeden Lane, Bryce Bader also with a helper on the play, to make it 2-0 Sherwood Park.
With an extra man on the ice for the delayed penalty, Arjun Atwal was denied by Lane who made a massive split save to keep the Storm in it. Brody Dale went to the box for slashing, but the Crusaders did not take advantage, and we remain at 2-0.
Grande Prairie had their first powerplay opportunity as Max Wutzke was given two for tripping. The Storm scored almost immediately, with Austin Schellenberg finding the back of the net, Cade Mason Brody Dale with the helpers.
The visitors almost tied things up with just a few seconds left with a shot off the crossbar, but the opening frame ends 2-1 Sherwood Park.
Sherwood Park came out flying to start to the second. Facing a strong forecheck from the Cru, Grande Prairie struggled to get the puck out of their zone giving the Crusaders several scoring opportunities, but Kaeden Lane kept his team in it with a handful of nice stops.
This was Grande Prairie’s third game in three days, and it started to show in the second. Sherwood Park did an incredible job of keeping the puck in the Storm’s end, everything was being turned away at the blue line, and the handful of times they did get down to the Cru’s end of the rink they were turned away quickly. However, despite Grande Prairie’s struggles, Sherwood Park only put a couple of shots on net.
The big hits continued in the middle period as well, Jacob Kendall had a massive on Cade Mason nearly sending him over the boards and into the Cru bench. Luckily, the glass at the ends of the bench has been rounded off for a few years now, if not it could have been a bad day for Mason.
The Cru gave Grande Prairie their second chance on the man advantage, Brennan McDonnell was given four minutes for high sticking. Just a few opportunities for the Storm, but with a minute left on the four-minute powerplay Jacob Franczak was also sent to the box for high sticking (just two minutes for him though), to give the Storm a minute of 5-on-3. With just a few seconds left on the 5-on-3 advantage, Nathan Morgan tied the game 2-2 at the side of the net, with assists from Brody Dale and Devin Sutton.
Heading into the third we are tied 2-2, the shot clock shows 16-15 for Sherwood Park.
This time it was Grande Prairie who came out skating in the third, putting a couple of shots to the net in the opening minute. Some pushing and shoving behind the Storm’s net sent Jarred White and Jackson Wozniak to the box for offsetting penalties, but White was given 10-minute misconduct as well for some foul language directed at the zebras.
After a battle in the corner, Nathan Morgan fed Jackson Wozniak who came flying into the slot to put Grande Prairie up 3-2, beating Frey glove side, Cade Mason with a secondary assist on the play.
Sherwood Park was given a chance to even things up moments later as Jackson Wozniak was given two for roughing, but a pretty good kill from the Storm kept them up 3-2.
Another powerplay for Grande Prairie as Brennan McDonnell went to the sin bin for slashing, not a smart move with the Cru looking for a tying goal.
With about a 1:30 left in the game and down a goal, Cru coach Adam Manah called a timeout to rally the boys. The Cru hit the ice and pulled Frey for the extra attacker. With 15-seconds left Jack Zayatwent to the box to box for boarding, but it wasn’t enough.
Grande Prairie hands Sherwood Park their fifth loss of the season 3-2.
- A dominant forecheck in the second was truly impressive. The Cru absolutely suffocated the Storm in their own end, finishing checks, grabbing loose pucks, and stopping everything in the neutral zone giving Grande Prairie nothing to work with.
- A very physical game from Sherwood Park, a tonne of clean checks really wore down an already tired Grande Prairie team.
- A solid game from Jordan Frey. It’s pretty rare for a team to keep up with the Crusaders on the shot clock, but Grande Prairie was right there with them all afternoon. It’s only thanks to Frey that we didn’t see a worse outcome on the scoreboard.
- Despite some awesome work on the forecheck Sherwood Park did not create enough chances. They need to put more pucks on net if they’re going to spend nearly an entire period in the offensive zone. The Cru didn’t carry that momentum into the final frame either.
- Normally a strong penalty-killing team, the Crusaders gave up two goals while shorthanded. But to be fair one was a four-minute PP with a minute of 5-on-3.
- Not a particularly great defensive effort from Sherwood Park. The Cru usually does such a great job of not only out-shooting their opponents but limiting their chances as well. That just didn’t happen Sunday.
- Even without some key players, Sherwood Park should have had no issues beating a team like the Storm, especially when this is their third game in a row.
The Crusaders will hit the road Wednesday, January 15th to visit the Bonnyville Pontiacs.