photo via Target Photography
After dropping part one of their season-ending home and home, the Crusaders welcomes the Spruce Grove Saints to the Sherwood Park Arena for their regular season finale.
Last night, the Saints were on the Crusaders early and often, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first en route to a 7-4 win. A crushing loss for Sherwood Park, who saw their chances of grabbing home-ice advantage in round one of the playoffs take a huge hit.
There still is hope, it will now take a win tonight along with two Grande Prairie losses. So possible, but unlikely.
With the Saints having already locked up the top spot in the North Division, they really don’t have much to play for, but when two division rivals go head-to-head, there’s never a shortage of emotion.
Even with the Cru technically still fighting for their play-off lives, they weren’t the hungry team to start off the game. The Saints were getting the better of the chances until they finally capitalized at 2:47 off a nice set play off the face-off. The goal served as a wake up call to the Cru as they were able to find their legs and get zone time. Their best chance of the period came from a no look pass from Ty Readman that sprung Arjun Atwal on a break away who rang it off the post. Unfortunately for the Cru they gave up another goal late in the period with 1:33 left. They headed into the locker room looking to turn it around after a period which they were outplayed and out shot 14-7.
Coming out of the intermission, it was a replay of the first period with the Cru getting outplayed. The scoring started with the Saints on a 5 on 3 to make it 3-0. Before the other powerplay ended the Saints added another one. As the period wore on you could see the Cru starting to unravel. This was exemplified by Tyson Gruninger taking a slashing penalty and the Saints scoring again on the powerplay. Imediatly after Gruninger came out of the box he took a misconduct. The Cru took seven penalties and will need to cut that down in the third if they want to try and claw their way back into the game. As we go into the third the Cru should try and put more pucks onto the net as they were again outshot 21-5 in the period.
The third period started and it appeared both teams had accepted the fate of the game with neither team showing much hustle. However, after the ten minute mark it became all Saints as they scored 3 more powerplay goals. The Cru’s undisciplined play carried into the period as they took another nine penalties. The final shots in the game were 51-21 Saints which was reflecive of the game. At the end of the day the Cru didn’t have their best game but will look to rebound in their upcoming playoff match.
- Even with the Cru not having a great game some of their best chances were generated on the penalty kill.
- They started the game sluggish against a good team and it cost them with an early goal and never got their feet moving.
- The Cru took 18 penalties in the game and that is way too many to go far in the playoffs.
- The penalty kill wasn’t there tonight as they gave up six goals.
It’s playoff time! The Crusaders will kick off their 2018 playoff run against Grande Prairie next week. So far this year the two teams have split their six-game season series and the goal differential has been essentially even. It should be a great series! Be sure to check in with @BelowTheIce & @SPCrusaders on Twitter for the latest schedule news, and listen to Inside The Cru on Thursday for a full series preview.