photo via Target Photograph
Looking to keep their season alive, the Crusaders played host to the Grande Prairie Storm in game four of their first-round series.
Through three games, the Cru have outshot the Storm 122-92 and have been the better team in each game. Grande Prairie has gotten some really good goaltending from Ethan Slobodzian, who many didn’t think would be the starter in the playoffs. They’ve also gotten some timely scoring, led by Edouard Michaud, who has five goals so far in this series.
While results are all that matter in the playoffs, the Crusaders should look at their effort during the first three games be nothing but confident in their ability to comeback in this series.
There are fewer things better than potential elimination games in sports, and you could sense a sort of nervous energy in the Sherwood Park Arena tonight as the Cru looked to force a fifth game.
The Storm came out with some hard pressure in the first minute, getting off a couple of quick chances. The early pressure would lead to the games first as Rookie of The Year Zach Okabe set up Connor Blake to make it 1-0.
The road teams lead wouldn’t last too long as veteran d-man Ben McLeod would fire home the equalizer.
That was just the beginning, as both teams came ready to score tonight. The Storm would ramp up the pressure about halfway through the period and were able to capitalize on their second powerplay of the night. Five minutes later, the onslaught began for the Cru. Arjun Atwal, Ty Readman, and Ryan Cox all scored goals within a two-minute span.
After 20, the scoreboard read 4-2 in favour of the home team.
Goals, goals, goals. The Crusaders took it to Grande Prairie in the middle frame and as the score increased, tempers began to boil over. With the Cru up 4-2 thanks to Ryan Cox’s second of the night, Storm d-man Chris Lanouette lined up William Zapernick with a very dirty knee, which led to a five-minute Crusaders powerplay. It also sparked quite the on-ice meleè.
The home side didn’t score on the extended man-advantage, but get a goal from Erik Miller quickly after the penalty expired. Miller would add another before the period was up.
The penalties didn’t stop either, with a total of 43 penalty minutes being handed out in the middle frame. By the time the period came to an end, the Cru held an 8-3 lead.
Honestly, both teams just looked exhausted by the final frame. With all the goals, penalties and scrums, the second period took a lot out of everyone involved.
I don’t want to call it “garbage time”, but neither team put forth an inspired effort. There was still some pushing and shoving after the whistles, and Grande Praire did cut the lead to 8-5, but I think it’s fair to say this one was over once the second period ended.
8-5 for the home side and this series will shift back to Grande Prairie for game five on Tuesday.
- What a sight to see Ben McLeod net the tieing goal in the first. Love seeing a long-time player make an impact in a big game.
- Felt like Captain Brendan Kallis brought his ‘A’ game tonight. He was physical early on and played a really steady game, almost scored on a 2-on-1 as well. The AJHL vet ate some big minutes.
- To win a playoff series, your best players have to be your best players and Ryan Cox has been a shining example of that. He added two goals early tonight and has been playing some incredible hockey.
- I’m all for hard, intense, playoff hockey, but today was a little bit much for me. I might be in the minority, but both teams needed to show more restraint.
- Storm d-man Chris Lanouette was given five and a game for kneeing, deservedly so, and I hope the AJHL throws the book at him. He averaged almost 10 PIMS a night in the regular season and I have no time or patience for guys like that in junior hockey.
- Sherwood Park didn’t score on their five-minute power play, and at the time were only up 4-2. That was a golden opportunity to put the game away, and they eventually did, but I would have liked to see a powerplay goal.
- The Cru were just as guilty as the Storm when it came to after the post-whistle shenanigans, they need to clean that up in Game five. Grande Prairie has a tendency to come unraveled, Sherwood Park needs to avoid the retaliation and just take the powerplays.
Game five goes Wednesday at 7:30 from the Revolution Arena in Grande Prairie. The Cru has been the better team through four games, and are 1-3-1 in Grande Prairie this year. There will be no shortage of emotions in this game, and it should be a dandy of a deciding game.
Keep it locked to BTI on Tuesday for a special playoff edition of Inside The Cru.