The final weekend of the regular season may not mean much terms of the standings for the Crusaders, who have already clinched first in the North Divison and have earned a bye through the first round of playoffs. However, this team is playing with history and win tonight will allow them to tie the franchise record in wins.
They are playing an Oil Barons team who have also already locked in their position in the standings and will have home ice advantage in a series against the Grand Praire Storm to start the post-season.
The last time these teams met the Crusaders were victims to facing hot goaltending, as they lost to the hands of Oil Barons goaltender Chris Curr. The Crusaders are looking to avoid that same fate tonight in their first of back to back games in the last weekend of the regular season.
Heres how it went down:
The Crusaders were the first team to get a crack on the man advantage. They did a great job of moving the puck around and kept possession in the Oil Barons for almost the entire two minutes. However, Fort Mcmurray’s penalty killers did an outstanding job at taking away the middle of the ice which made it difficult for the Crusaders to develop quality scoring chances.
Later on in the period Crusaders forward Arjun Atwal jumped all over a turnover in front of the Oil Barons net, where he set up a wide-open Carter Savoie for a one-timer, but the newly anointed rookie of the year rang it off the post.
The play then quickly turned the other way, where Oil Barons forward Tyler Maser was able to put the puck past Carter Gylander to give the Oil Barons the first lead of the night.
But the Crusaders would answer back before the end of the period where a great “shot-pass” by Reid Irwin was deflected in front of the net where Atwal, February’s Player of the Month, was eventually able to push the puck past Josh Dias.
Although the Crusaders put a plethora of shots on Oil Barons Goaltender Josh Dias, this game is tied 1-1 going into the second.
An early powerplay to start the second didn’t go as the Crusaders hoped. As a neutral zone turnover led to Reed Morrisson sniping the puck past the glove side of Gylander on a shorthanded breakaway.
Another powerplay chance saw the University of Vermont commit Brett Wieschorster’s tip deflected off the post and managed to stay out as the Oil Barons somehow find themselves holding onto the lead.
Soon after Atwal’s shot hit the post yet again and as the play continued, Micahel Bentz would be given a golden opportunity in the slot but was robbed by Dias as the Crusaders surge to tie the game continued to no avail.
Despite putting up just under 30 shots after just two periods of the play, the Crusaders somehow find themselves still chasing the game heading into the final frame.
Savoie was able to walk across the blueline and wire one over the right pad of Dias to finally tie the game up at 2-2 after a relentless effort by the Crusaders to tie the game was finally rewarded.
That would be it for offence from either team despite a late period push to take the win by the Crusaders. However, a late hit to the head by Gunner Kinniburgh in the dying seconds of the game would put the Cru on the powerplay heading into overtime.
The Crusaders took no time capitalizing on the four on three advantage gifted to them by Kinniburgh, as Nick Bowman sniped it past Dias to launch the water bottle off the net and the roof off of Sherwood Park Arena as the Crusaders win a thriller to tie the franchise record in wins in a season.
- Garret Clegg, Carter Savoie, and Brett Kaiser all laid huge hits in this one. It was great to see some of the teams best offensive players step up on the physical side of the game.
- The Crusaders dominated the game from possession and shots on goal standpoint for the entirety of the game which was encouraging to see despite the struggles to beat Oil Barons goaltender Josh Dias.
- The number of posts hit in this game was unbelievable if more of those found their way in the Crusaders could have grabbed a lead in this one rather than chasing the lead almost the entire game.
- Gylander bailed the Crusaders out three times in the second period with some huge saves. The Crusaders could have faced a discouraging chase to try and tie the game if Gylander didn’t bail them out.
- Before the goal on the man advantage in overtime, the powerplay struggled to find the back of the net and is something they need to figure out during their bye week before the playoffs start.
- The short-handed goal against was a product of not being mentally engaged in the game, another aspect they must figure out before playoffs as mental slip-ups can find teams heading home earlier than expected in the postseason.
Up Next: The Crusaders finish off their regular season at 7:00 in Sherwood Park Arena tomorrow night against the Grand Praire Storm in their second game of a doubleheader weekend.