After Grande Prairie took game one 4-1, the Crusaders responded with an overtime win in game two and now, the series shifted back to Sherwood Park with the Crusaders now holding home-ice advantage.
Before the series even started, I said this would be the best first-round matchup in the AJHL, and I think most who follow the league would agree with me. Through two games, it’s definitely lived up to my expectations and tonight was no exception. Both teams came out with a lot of energy and it resulted in a lot of offense.
The refs were giving their whistles a workout early and often in game three, the Crusaders went short-handed three times in the first ten minutes. By the end of the frame, there were a total of six minor penalties handed out, four of which went to the home team.
Neither team’s powerplays let them down either, with the Storm striking first on the man advantage. The Cru would even it up shortly after with their own powerplay marker courtesy of Arjun Atwal.
Just over a minute after tieing the game, Sherwood Park got another chance on the power play and made it count. Tyler Jette, who has been fantastic this season, ripped a wrist shot off the back bar. He doesn’t shoot the puck noticeably hard, but he can pick his spot when he gets his chance.
The Storm would even it up before the end of the period thanks to a gorgeous shot by Edouard Michaud, which as you could have guessed, was on the powerplay.
Emotions got high in the middle frame, and each teams parades to the box continued. The officiating wasn’t good tonight either, too much inconsistency in what was and wasn’t being called which only led to more frustration from both the players and the coaches.
Sherwood Park grabbed a lead early in the period when Ryan Cox jumped on a loose puck. #25 had a point on all of the teams’ goals through 40 minutes.
The shot clocked favored the Cru for basically the whole game and they did a good job pushing solid pressure onto Storm goalie Ethan Slobodzian for most of the game.
Brandon Vogel only faced nine shots in the middle frame but made a couple of really impressive saves. Having him healthy and in the crease is beyond important to this team given their current injury situation.
For 15 minutes, the Cru did a great job playing with the lead, but they couldn’t find a way to jam the insurance marker past Slobodzian. For a team to put up 13 shots, which included some ‘Grade A’ chances and not get one in a tight game isn’t a good look.
Give credit to Grande Prairie, they hung around and kept this a one-goal game, and when they got their chance they capitalized. Edouard Michaud got a loose puck in the slot and ripped it high on Brandon Vogel, who just seconds earlier failed to stop a dump in behind his own net.
An unfortunate play that erased an otherwise clean third period by the Cru.
With things even at three, this one needed overtime for the second straight game.
A little bit of free hockey at the Sherwood Park Arena, but it didn’t last long. Exactly 110 seconds into the extra frame Grande Prairie forward Cruze Cote ripped a wrist shot over the shoulder of Brandon Vogel, giving the Storm the win and the series lead.
- Despite the number of penalties called on them, I thought the Cru did a good job of staying composed and not letting their emotions get the best of them.
- What a difference a good powerplay can make. The Cru went 2/2 in the opening frame and it allowed them to grab momentum.
- Really good consistent offensive pressure from the home side as well and it showed on the shot clock.
- Brandon Vogel wasn’t pushed too much, but he stood tall when needed. A very good fame from the teams #1.
- While they did score two powerplay goals in the opening frame, they also gave up two powerplay markers. They could have had a real stranglehold if their PK could have gutted out one more kill.
- Lots of shots are great, but they needed to finish a little better. Grabbing an insurance goal earlier would have been likely led to a win in regulation. They made some poor choices on a few two-on-ones in my opinion.
With their backs against the wall, the Cru will host the Storm in game four tomorrow at the Sherwood Park Arena.