The Sherwood Park Crusaders are looking for a sweep on Saturday night as they play their third straight game versus the Grande Prairie Storm. The Crusaders took the first two games last weekend in Grande Prairie, winning 4-1 and 4-0. This is Sherwood Park’s first game since being named number one overall in the CJHL Top 20 Rankings for February. The Crusaders are 42-7-0 on the season, and out of 131 teams across the country, they have the best winning percentage at 0.857. Two other Alberta teams were also named to the Top 20, the Okotoks Oilers are right behind the Cru at number 2, and the Brooks Bandits are a few spots back at number 6. Grande Prairie comes into tonight’s matchup 6th in the AJHL North at 18-24-7.
Carter Gylander starts in net for the home team, Gylander continues to have a great season with a save percentage of 0.928, a GAA of 1.97 and a record of 27-4-0. Grande Prairie counters with Lars Kaliel, he starts tonight with a 9-11-4 record, a 3.01 GAA, and a save percentage of 0.910.
Cru captain Arjun Atwal was honoured before the game for his 200th career junior game. Atwal and the rest of the boys are looking very sharp in their new green home jerseys. They’re giving me major Hartford Whalers vibes; I especially like the white numbers on a green jersey.
Both teams came out flying to start the game, throwing some big hits at both ends of the rink. Grande Prairie had the first solid chance with Austin Schellenberg picking up a loose puck and ringing a backhand off the crossbar. The Storm had the first man-advantage of the match with Ty Ettinger heading to the box for hooking. Not much of a powerplay from Grande Prairie as the game remains scoreless.
Not long later it was Sherwood Park’s turn on the powerplay, Devin Sutton was given two for high-sticking. A couple of solid chances for the Cru, but Lars Kaliel kept the door shut to keep it tied at zero.
Carter Savoie and Grande Prairie’s Jack Zayat spent two minutes in the sin bin for unsportsmanlike conduct, I saw Savoie give a shove from behind, but I’m not quite sure what the else the pair did to earn the calls.
Seven seconds left in the first and Max Wutzke gave Grande Prairie another chance on the powerplay with a trip. The Crusaders are lucky GP’s powerplay isn’t so hot; otherwise, they would be in trouble.
We head into the second period scoreless. The shot clock shows 14-6 for Sherwood Park; the Storm will have 1:53 left on the man advantage.
Only 22 seconds into the second the Storm converted on the powerplay to put themselves up 1-0. Nathanial Bierd was sprung on a lone breakaway with a pass from Owen Dean after one of Sherwood Park’s defenders tripped at the blue line. Ethan Strang was also awarded an assist on the play. Can’t blame Gylander on that one, Bierd made a really nice move to put his team on the board.
That seemed to really motivate the Cru, they looked pretty good to start the game, but now in the second, they are flying. The top line especially really started to pour on the shots, but Lars Kaliel is having a great night making big stops to keep his side up.
Sherwood Park finally got on the board just before the 11-minute mark. Jarred White made it 1-1 off a pass from Tanner Fincaryk, Michael Benning also had an assist on the goal.
Carter Savoie lept over Lars Kaliel to pick up a rebound in the crease off a bomb from Will Zapernick to make it 2-1 for the Cru. Just a great effort from Savoie to make the goal.
After missing a tripping call on Arjun Atwal just moments earlier, the ref made the right call as Atwal was hauled down again in front of the Storm net by Brody Dale. Carter Savoie capitalized for his second goal of the night just as the PP was about to expire. Another great effort from him to put the Crusaders up 3-1, Arjun Atwal with an assist on the play.
Grande Prairie answered back immediately though, scoring while Savoie’s goal was still being announced. Ethan Strang had a nice blast past Gylander to make it 3-2, Dylan McFatridge with the lone helper.
We head into the third 3-2, the shit clock shows 31-12 in favour of the home team.
Arjun Atwal and Jackson Wozniak had some grappling behind the Storm’s net to send both of them to the box for roughing. Grande Prairie tied the game 3-3 with a goal from Devin Sutton with assists from Cade Mason and Dylan McFatridge, but Sherwood Park didn’t let that slow them down. The Crusaders responded almost immediately; Matt Shatsky scored to put Sherwood Park back in the lead. Ty Mueller and Max Wutzke with the assists.
Brent Loukus tied the game 4-4 with a nice shot to beat Carter Gylander blocker side over the shoulder. Loukus had a bit of a breakaway thanks to a pass from Brett Meerman.
Reid Irwin made it 5-4 for Sherwood park with 8:47 remaining in the game, Vicent Scott and Blake Sydlowski with the assists on the play. Shortly after, Jarred White was sent to the box for interference to give the Storm another chance on the man-advantage. A solid effort on the penalty kill kept the game at 5-4 for the good guys.
A total fluke by Jacob Kendall seemed to slip a puck under Lars Kaliel’s glove hand to give the Crusaders some insurance and make it 6-4. Matt Shatsky was awarded with an assist on the goal.
And again Grande Prairie answered back just a minute and change later to put themselves back in the game. Ethan Strang beat Carter Gylander unassisted to make it 6-5 with less than three minutes remaining.
Jarred White was sent to the box again, this time for a cross-check to give the Storm a power play with 2:06 left in the game. With the man advantage, GP pulled their goalie to give themselves six attackers on four defenders. Arjun Atwal made an empty netter to put the game away, Sherwood Park wins 7-5. Atwal’s goal was his 218th point for the Crusaders, putting him second all-time on the franchise scoring leader list.
- They replaced the first intermission tricycle race with a sledge hockey race; I like showing off a form of hockey that most of us never see hopefully this sticks around.
- Sherwood Park never took themselves out of the game, despite being down 1-0 and giving up some momentum-killing goals they kept their heads down and did the work.
- Too many penalties but their PK only allowed one goal on five chances.
- Way too many penalties for the Crusaders. This seems to happen often with this team; they can take some silly penalties and get away with it because they are so dominant. This could hurt them in the playoffs in tight games against stronger opponents.
- The number one overall team in the country should be putting teams like Grande Prairie away easily, but tonight they couldn’t seem to pull away.
- I don’t know if they let their guard’s down or what, but Sherwood Park would score and then give one up a short time later.
The Crusaders are back at it tomorrow versus the Bonnyville Pontiacs; puck drop is at 2:15 pm at the Sherwood Park Arena.