Photo Via Target Photography
For the first time this month, the Sherwood Park Crusaders took to the ice looking to avenge a loss. The team had their seven-game winning streak snapped on Saturday when they lost 2-0 to the Spruce Grove Saints.
Before that loss, the Cru had outscored their opponents 39-14 throughout their winning streak. It was as dominant a stretch of hockey as I’ve seen them play in my three years covering the team.
Eventually, they were bound to lose, and Spruce Grove is a really good team. Tonight, they got an excellent chance to bounce back as the Drayton Valley Thunder rolled into the Sherwood Park Arena. If you remember, the Thunder swept the Crusaders in their season-opening home-and-home series, but the two teams have been polar opposites since then.
Sherwood Park would go on to win 10 of their next 13 games, while Drayton Valley would lose 11 in a row, before finally getting a win on Sunday against the Calgary Canucks.
The Thunder are a team in the transition, while the Cru seem ready to contend. Let’s wrap this one up:
The Cru came out flying in this one, as was the theme during the majority of their recent winning streak. After the first ten minutes, the shots were sitting at 11-3 in favour of the home side. Mixed into those chances was a shot that beat Thunder goalie Luke Lush, but caught iron.
The Crusaders got a look on the powerplay just five minutes in, but couldn’t generate a solid scoring chance.
The Thunder pushed back a little in the back half of the first, putting up five shots on goal, but they couldn’t beat Carter Gylander with any of them.
I liked what I saw from the top line as well. Jacob Franczak held his own with two of the Crusaders most skilled players. Although his spot on the top line is far from permanent, a good run while Atwal is out could do wonders for is confidence.
When the opening period ended, the shot clock read 16-6 for the Crusaders, while the score sat even at 0-0.
The pace picked up in the middle frame, and early on it was the Crusaders getting the bulk of the chances. Brett Wieschorster had a great chance early on, but the puck bounced over his stick. Michael Benning rang a shot off the post and then even had a goal disallowed after the net was knocked off.
I needed both hands to count the number of quality chances the Crusaders had early in the second, but it was actually the Thunder who had a higher quantity of shots. The visitors outshot Sherwood Park 15-9 in the second period, but Carter Gylander had an answer for every single shot. His most impressive stop came in the final five minutes with his team shorthanded. He made a quick lateral move across the top of his crease to stone a Thunder forward on the far side.
Each team would miss a chance with the man advantage as well, and neither team would be able to find the back of the net. The scoreboard read ‘0-0’ after 40 minutes.
There were too many times early in this one where the Crusaders seemed to be playing down to the Thunder. They didn’t show a killer instinct, but they found it in the final frame.
3:19 into the period the newly acquired Cody Laskosky made his mark, firing home the games first goal. Shortly after that, the Crusaders would get a powerplay, and for the first time in the game, they would capitalize. Carter Savoie would get the goal, once again showing off his top-notch hockey sense. He picked up the puck almost below the goal line, recognized that Luke Lush was off his post, and banked it off the Thunder goaltender.
The 2-0 lead would only last about five minutes before the Thunder got a powerplay goal of their own. Then, with under two minutes to go, Michael Bentz went to the box and gave the visitors a glorious chance to tie the game. The Thunder decided against pulling their goalie for the first half of the final powerplay, a move that really puzzled me.
The Crusaders didn’t allow the Thunder to get a single high-quality chance on their powerplay and got a big penalty kill to seal their victory. Back in the win column. 2-1 the final from the Sherwood Park Arena.
- Carter Gylander has taken the backup job, and it does not look like he is letting go any time soon. He delivered a fantastic performance making some incredible stops when the game was tied.
- I’ve talked about it on Inside The Cru recently, but the fourth line has been fantastic as of late, and it gives this team a massive edge over their opposition. Getting that extra boost of energy, whether it’s from a big hit or a good scoring chance, is huge when you’re in a tight game like tonight. Cam Aucion, Tanner Fincaryk, and Brayden Hyland deserve a lot of credit for how well they played, even if it didn’t show up on the scoresheet.
- Sometimes, after having a long winning streak snapped teams can lose a step. It was nice to see the Cru come out and play a motivated game tonight. Were there flaws? Absolutely. But having the ability to put a loss behind you is a skill, and they showed that with the win tonight.
- The powerplay could have given them some life in this one, but it was flat. They had a decent amount of zone time, but couldn’t translate a decent cycle into any ‘Grade A’ scoring chances. They got a big goal in the third, so the early struggles are mostly forgotten, but a little more consistency would have been nice to see.
- To be blunt, Drayton Valley is not a very good team. They compete hard and do all the right things, but the Crusaders needed to find a way to put them away earlier than they did. The shots and scoring chances are nice, but they only count if they cross the line.
- Discipline, discipline, discipline. Hate singling guys out, but Michael Bentz took a bad penalty late in the game. He’s a solid defenseman, who plays with an edge, but he crossed it in the final two minutes and gave the Thunder a 6-on-4. His teammates came through with a big penalty kill, so no damage was done.
The Crusaders will look to kick-start a brand new winning streak when they head to Grande Prairie for back-to-back games this weekend. Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. from Revolution Arena. The boys won’t be back on home ice until November 9th when they host the Whitecourt Wolverines. A tough five-game road trip is staring them down, will be very interesting to see how this group can handle it.