Grande Prairie Storm drop 4-1 decision to the Sherwood Park Crusaders in AJHL hockey action

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The Sherwood Park Crusaders scored two third-period goals and picked up a 4-1 win over the Grande Prairie Storm in Alberta Junior Hockey League action at Revolution Place on Saturday afternoon.

The visitors led 2-1 after 40 minutes of play, lighting the lamp twice in the final frame, with goaltender Carson Cherepak throwing up the proverbial brick wall, turning aside 17 shots in the final frame and 35 for the game.

From his spot behind the bench, Storm Head Coach and General Manager Mike Vandekamp liked the effort, the puck possession and chances generated. Besides wanting more statistical reward for the effort, Vandekamp wished his club made the job of stopping pucks more challenging for Cherepak.

“I thought we had plenty of action in their end (during the third period),” Vandekamp said. “Territorially, we were playing in their end, we just didn’t have enough traffic at their net (on Saturday) and that was a big thing (as) their goaltender saw a lot of pucks. We had 36 shots, he saw a lot of them, and made some decent saves and we didn’t have that same level of grease that you need to score some times. Scoring has been tough for us the last little bit. We have to really work hard to score right now.”

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Ethan Strang scored the only goal of the game for the Storm, breaking in alone on Cherepak and besting him with a shot through the legs at 12:48 of the first period, tying the game a 1-1. The goal was Strang’s third of the weekend and seventh of the season.

Joe Chambers took the loss, stopping 18 of 22 shots for the home side.

On goals by Brandon McCartney and Zafir Rawji, the Crusaders led 2-1 after 40 minutes of play. Cale Ashcroft, and James Gibson scored in the third period for the visitors.

The Storm won the opener of the series, a 4-3 shootout win over the Crusaders on Friday night at the downtown rink.

“We weren’t as good as we were on Friday (night), right from the beginning of the game,” Vandekamp said. “We didn’t have the same sharpness and we did in Friday night’s game.”

Speaking of sharpness, since the beginning of the regular season in November, the club has a displayed a consistent win-loss pattern,  a suitable testament in a 7-8-1 record.

Besides two consecutive victories against the Olds Grizzlys during exhibition play in early November, the club hasn’t won two games in a row during the regular season.

“Well, you know we haven’t had a chance to build any consistency, let’s be perfectly honest,” Vandekamp said. “We’ve been paused four times this year for lengthy periods of time so you’re constantly restarting. This was game five and six of another restart so where’s the consistency in that? It is what it is and this hockey season we’ve done the best we can to try and push through. The players have been extremely committed throughout the season, done a really good job of sticking with this thing. How are you going to build traction as a team and that’s no excuse because every team has gone through it.”

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The Storm finish up the season this coming weekend when they head to suburbs of Edmonton for the return engagement against the Crusaders, the coach hoping they can finish the season on a positive note, hoping to get rewarded for the persistence shown this season.

“We’ve been really working hard in our game; we’ve been treating this as best we can,” Vandekamp said. “We’re focused, our practices have been good, we’re preparing for games like we would in any regular season situation but I’m just telling you it’s not the same. Are we trying? Sure we are, but it’s not the same. We have four more practices, two more games to play and we have a chance to make the best of it hopefully end on a good note.”

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