Winners of six of their last seven games, the Crusaders were back on home ice tonight taking on their North Division rivals, the Spruce Grove Saints. The Saints have also dropped just one decision in their final seven games and sit just two points back of the Crusaders for second in the division.
These two teams have faced off twice this season and split the games. The Crusaders grabbed a thrilling come from behind victory last month but followed it up the next night with a loss on home ice to the Saints.
Each team was in action last night, each grabbing wins as well, and they also both started their backup goalies in part one of their weekend doubleheaders. Tonight, the Saints went with rookie phenom Matt Davis, who’s posted a 1.64 GAA and a 0.922 SV% in 11 games this season. Goaltending has been a strength for the Cru as well, tonight they went with their number one guy Matt Berlin, who has a 2.27 GAA to go with a 0.929 SV%.
It’s early in the season, but the fact these two teams sat their number one goalies on game one of their weekend shows you have important tonights matchup is. Here’s how things went down:
The teams traded momentum swings early in the first period before madness broke out after a whistle at 11:59. Dylan Bourlei hammered a Crusader into the board after the whistle and a massive scrum ensued that resulted in the ejection of Crusaders forward Tyson Scott. Bourlei and Garrett Clegg both received ten minute misconducts. The Crusaders kept the Saints power play at bay until 39 seconds remained, and thats when Saints defender Cory Babichuk beat Matt Berlin to open the scoring. Will Zapernick would respond for the Cru off a ridiculous thread-the-needle pass by Carter Savoie. Zapernick’s 12th of the season and Savoie’s 35th point.
Nothing remarkable about the start to the 2nd, but on a power play for the Crusaders Michael Benning ripped a seeing-eye wrister from the point that went bar down to give his team a 2-1 lead. It was Benning’s 2nd goal of the year. Then the rough stuff took back over, resulting in Connor Hart dropping the mitts with Ethan Leyer in what can only be described as a good old fashioned “punch you in the face” contest. Both were handed game misconducts for their involvement and that seemed to calm both teams down.
The Crusaders were handed two power play chances to drive the nail into the coffin, but couldn’t convert against the league’s best penalty kill. Edmonton-product Bruce MacGregor made the Crusaders pay for that seven minutes into the period, sneaking one under the pad of Berlin to tie the game. A two-on-one for the Crusaders at the end of the period was for not and extra hockey was on tap.
Lots of open ice to work with os usually a recipe for success for the Crusaders and for the slick, puck-moving defencemen of the Saint, but nothing was solved in the extra frame and a shootout was needed. Carter Savoie scored five-hole on Matt Davis and Garrett Clegg got lucky as Davis made the initial stop but the puck caught an edge and rolled into the goal. Matt Berlin stopped 2/3 shooters and gave the Cru the victory.
The Crusaders registered their first win on home ice against the Saints in nearly three seasons.
They did a great job challenging the league’s best goaltender (statistically) when he played the puck, forcing turnovers
They didn’t appear to be tired despite playing four games in five days.
The Pontiacs lost to Brooks, meaning the Crusaders’ win put them in 1st in the Viterra North Division
Discipline was a factor for the team, losing both Tyson Scott and Connor Hart in a meaningful game.
They allowed the game-tying goal in the stretch drive of the game, surrendering momentum at the wrong time.
The Cru will have almost a week off before heading out on a southern Alberta road trip. They’ll kick it off next weekend against the Drumheller Dragons, who sit second in the South Division, on Friday night and then head to Olds to take on the AJHL’s current cellar-dwelling Grizzlies.