CRUSADERS 5 EAGLES 4
Looking to finish off their homestand strong, the Crusaders took on a struggling Canmore Eagles team that has lost five in a row.
Despite the losing streak, Canmore still held a record of 17-21-2 coming into this game, just two wins less than Sherwood Park. The Eagles aren’t exactly worldbeaters offensively, with just 119 goals for this season but they play a sound, structured game and it can be tough for the opposition to generate strong scoring chances on a consistent basis.
A pair of Crusaders were also trying to make good first impressions tonight. Tyson Grunninger is coming off a debut that saw him score two empty net goals and add an assist while newly acquired goalie Josh Brindza made his first start in the green and black.
Let’s wrap this up:
*Yawn* The opening frame of this game was one of the least exciting periods of hockey I’ve seen this season. Seven minutes into the game, these two teams had combined for just three shots on goal.
As the period wore on, the Cru were clearly being outplayed. Canmore had them pinned for long stretches, but credit to Sherwood Park who did a good job keeping them to the outside and not allowing any “Grade A” scoring chances.
All in all, it was a pretty vanilla period apart from one shift from Tyson Gruninger where he delivered a thundering hit in his own end then showed off his high-end speed en route to creating the best chance of the period for the home team.
Sherwood Park did manage to get on the board late thanks to the Atwal-Stewart-Cox line. After the first, it was 1-0.
Camrose got this game evened quickly when they fired one from a bad angle. Im sure Brindza wanted that one back, but he managed to shake it off quickly and stood tall for the remainder of the period. That early marker was the only one that got past him in the second.
The Crusaders really took over from that point on. Deklan Whillans has been one of this teams hardest working players as of late and he turned in a few really good shifts before finally catching a break and scoring his fourth of the year.
That was the first of four unanswered goals as Ty Readman would fire his 14th and 15th past Eagles goalie Logan Dyck before Tyson Gruninger put home his third as a Crusader. The home side led 4-1 after two.
Looking like a team that had already mailed this one in, the Crusaders gave up a powerplay goal early in the third to cut their lead to three. It was clear they took their foot off the gas a little.
Similar to the second period, the early goal seemed to wake up the home side and they started to push back. They also got a powerplay which helped them regain some momentum and really kill any comeback hopes that Canmore may have had.
The bad news came about five minutes into the period when there was a bit of a collision in front of the Sherwood Park net and Josh Brindza went down. At first, it seemed harmless but Brindza would leave the game and wasn’t putting any weight on his right leg. Not good for one of the teams new acquisitions and clearly you hope it’s not as serious as it looked.
With seven minutes to go, it looked like this one was all but over, but Colton Young fired one past Brandon Vogel to make it 5-3. The Eagles would add another one with just under 30 seconds to go making it 5-4.
Tyson Gruninger also hit two posts with the Canmore net empty. Two.
Regardless, the Cru managed to hold on for the win tonight, their second straight and third in four games.
- Tyson Gruninger has been a member of this team for less than a week, but he has made a really strong impact. He’s one of their better skating forwards and has a nose for the net. The added forward depth will do wonders for this team as they head into the postseason.
- I thought Josh Brindza was really good tonight. Sometimes a player can have added nerves in their first game with a new club, Brindza didn’t appear that way at all. I also liked how he rebounded from a bit of a soft goal and kept his composure.
- The power play scored once on two chances and looked good. Keeping their special teams hot will be huge for this team as they look to keep this recent hot streak going.
- They only gave Canmore two power plays and one was when the game was already out of reach. They were very disciplined today and that’s a big reason they were able to slowly take over this game.
- They have a real stud in Tyler Jette. The big d-man moves well and plays a really calm game.
- With five minutes to go, they took a penalty and desperately needed a kill to keep their two-goal lead. They got it thanks to a really solid effort from their PK.
- Slow starts seem to be a bit of a theme with this group. Luckily, they usually bounce back but that won’t be as easy to do when they take on better opponents.
- They came out a little flat in the third. They were up 5-1 on a Saturday night so it’s understandable why they would start to look past this game but again, you can’t let that become a habit.
- That injury to Josh Brindza didn’t look good. Such a shame because he was playing so well in his debut.
- Tyson Gruninger had two empty nettters last night and hit two posts with the goalie pulled tonight. You have to put those chances in, and it almost costed the Cru tonight.
The Cru will hit the road next weekend and head down to Canmore to complete the home and home. No doubt Canmore will be eager to avenge tonightès loss and it’s always interesting to see how two teams will respond when they play each other less than a week apart. Itès a bit of a “coaches game” if you will. The puck will drop just after 7 pm from the Canmore Recreation Center.
They’ll finish the road trip in Calgary on Friday before returning home for a pair of games on the 26th and 27th.