The Sherwood Park Crusaders look to continue their domination of the AJHL North as they welcome the Whitecourt Wolverines to the Sherwood Park Arena. Since returning from the holiday break the Crusaders have a record of 3-0, the visiting Wolverines are floating around the .500 mark with a record of 18-15-4 sitting fourth in the north.
The Crusaders are still comfortably in first place in the AJHL North posting a record of 35-3-0, they haven’t lost since December 4th, which was a 5-4 loss versus Bonnyville.
Crusaders goaltender Carter Gylander gets the start after making 21 saves on 22 shots Sunday versus Canmore. He’s second in the league with a 21-1-0 record, a 1.94 GAA, and a 0.928 save percentage. Vincent Duplessis counters for the Wolverines, the Quebec City product has won his last two starts and has a GAA of 2.97 and a respectable 0.904 save percentage.
Congratulations to Cru captain Arjun Atwal, he was named AJHL player of the week. Atwal tallied 7 points, two goals and five assists, in three wins over Spruce Grove, Calgary and Canmore. This is the second time this season Atwal has been named player of the week, the first was back in September where he had 10 points in one week.
Both teams started playing a pretty time game with some back and forth entries, but no shots on net until Whitecourt forced Carter Gylander to make a pad save a little over two minutes in.
Sherwood Park went on the powerplay at the 15:31 mark, Bryce Osepchuk was given two minutes for holding. Shout out to whoever decided to start using the penalty music from the World Juniors, it sounds like embarrassing clown music as the players head to the box. I heard it over the weekend and it’s an awesome touch. Whitecourt did a good job limiting the Cru to just one shot on net, the man-advantage ends and we’re still scoreless.
Reid Irwin made what I thought was an awesome defensive play to stop a lone Wolverine on a breakaway, knocking the player to the ice and into the net, but the officials called a trip and awarded a penalty shot. Whitecourt’s Ethan Green went five-hole, but Carter Gylander made the stop.
Ryan Wallz made it 1-0 Whitecourt after a Crusaders turnover at the Wolverines blue line, Wallz couldn’t be caught and he buried one past Gylander. A great individual effort by Wallz with no assists on the play. Sherwood Park is normally such a tight passing team, but it seems like they’re making some poor decisions and creating turnovers.
Sherwood Park is lucky the first period ends at only 1-0 for Whitecourt, Carter Gylander has made some saves to bail out his team, but the Cru need to create more offence. The shot clock reads 10-13 for the Wolverines.
Head coach Adam Manah brought out the blender during the intermission and switched up the lines. Will Zapernick was put on a line with the Jacobs, Franczak and Kendall, and Jarred White took Zapernick’s place on the top line with Atwal and Savoie.
Bryce Bader laid a big hit along the boards at centre ice and officials rewarded him with a boarding call, giving the Wolverines their first powerplay. An excellent PK from the home team kept Whitecourt to just one shot one net, and the Cru themselves actually had two solid shorthanded chances.
Ryan Wallz walked in and beat Gylander glove side to make it 2-0 for the Wolverines, but after some discussion, the refs waved it off saying the net was off.
It didn’t slow down the Wolverines though, they scored almost immediately to really make it 2-0. Rookie and Sherwood Park native Ben Wood with the goal, Kaleb Erbang with the lone assist.
After calling a timeout the Crusaders seemed to turn things around, putting more pucks on net and more plays together. They need to just shoot more though, the Cru had some solid looks, but many passes were intercepted. We head into the third with Whitecourt up 2-0.
A bit of a better start to the final frame for the Crusaders, a few more solid chances and they look to have more speed to their game.
A powerplay gave them more energy as well, Will Spitzer was given two for hooking, but the Crusaders couldn’t capitalize. The shot clock finally is showing in favour of the Cru.
Nicholas Magis and Ben Wood dropped the gloves, at the 12:30 mark. Wood was looking for some revenge after Magis laid a big hit into the boards earlier. Plenty of big swings, but it was over quickly. Both received five for fighting and game misconducts.
Sherwood Park had a chance to get on the board after a tripping call on Ethan Leyer. It quickly turned into a 5-on-3 for 1:16 after Wolverine’s captain Adam Sandstrom laid a cross-check. With just three defenders on the ice, the Cru finally looked like the strong passing team they usually are. Arjun Atwal made it 2-1 after banging in the puck at the side of the net, Will Zapernick with the helper. The second penalty expired and it remained 2-1, but it definitely gave the Cru a boost.
That boost was immediately deflated seconds later, after Bryce Osepchuk beat Gylander blocker side to put Whitecourt up 3-1. Ethan Leyer and Kaleb Ergang with the assists.
Gylander was pulled with more than four minutes remaining to put an extra man on. The Cru did a good job of keeping the puck in the zone, it’s pretty impressive to play more than 4 minutes without a goalie and not let in an empty netter. They didn’t get many quality chances though.
Whitecourt really wanted this one. Players were blocking shots and their bench was loving it, and Wolverines netminder Vincent Duplessis played outstanding.
The Cru loses for just the fourth time this season, final score 3-1.
- Carter Gylander was great tonight, he was by far the best Crusader. The game likely would have gotten out of hand if he didn’t show up. He made 22 saves in a losing effort.
- A disciplined game from Sherwood Park, just one penalty resulting in a powerplay.
- Another slow start from the Cru. They started sluggish in games over the weekend but were able to pull off wins. That didn’t happen this time, they struggled all night and only looked like the dominating team they usually are in a few brief flashes.
- This team normally makes beautiful passes all night long, but they just couldn’t get it together with Hail Mary and sloppy passes resulting in turnovers.
- Shoot the puck. Even when Sherwood Park started to show signs of life they weren’t putting enough rubber on the net. In the latter half of the second especially they tried to force too many passes instead of simplifying their game and just shooting.
- Sherwood Park needed a 5-on-3 before they were able to convert on the powerplay.
The Sherwood Park Crusaders head to Bonnyville Friday to take on the last team that beat them the Pontiacs. They’ll be back at the Sherwood Park Arena Sunday when the Grande Prairie Storm are in town, puck drop is at 2:15.