ROUND 3 GAME 6: Saints win series 4-2!
By: Adam Kulak
Game 6, leading 3-2 in the series, home ice, the Saints couldn’t have written it any better. In front of a capacity crowd of 1,568, in front of the best fans in the AJHL, the Saints get the job done. It was a roller coaster of a game, it wasn’t always pretty at times, but it didn’t matter as the Saints defeat the Sherwood Park Crusaders 6-4 and are now heading back to the AJHL Finals. Let’s go through tonight how the Saints got to where they are now.
Everything was going so well for the Saints in the first period. They were defending well off the rush, they were exiting their zone and entering the offensive zone seamlessly. They would jump out to a 2-0 lead for most of the period. 7 minutes in, Cam Mitchell would toe drag a Cru defender and then beat Matt Berlin on the backhand to open the scoring. Later in the period, Cam Mitchell again would make a move around a Cru defender, cut in on the backhand and then go backhand forehand for his second on a highlight reel goal. The Saints held the Crusader to just 1 shot up until 5 minutes left in the period. Then in the final 5 minutes of the period, everything started to fall apart. A minute after Mitchell’s second, Garrett Clegg would get the Cru on the board to cut the lead in half. 2 minutes later, Jayden Platz would fire it home from the point to tie the game at 2. 40 seconds after that, Arjun Atwal would find William Zapernick out front as the Cru stun the crowd here at Grant Fuhr Arena with 3 quick goals to take the lead. The Saints let the Cru back in the game by taking their foot off the gas a little bit and the Crusaders are good enough to make you pay for that. They will look to get back to playing they way they did prior when we head to the second. Shots in the period were 14-6 Saints but they trail after 20.
The Saints responded immediately at the start of the second period. They put the final 5 minutes of the first behind them, regrouped and got back to playing the way they did to start this game. As I said, just 18 seconds into the period, Brett Trentham in his 4th game back, would get his first goal since November 24th, tying the game back up 3-3. It’s been a frustrating season for Trentham with missing as much time as he did. Getting that goal was probably a huge relief for him and it got the Saints right back into things. The Saints threw everything they had at Matt Berlin in the period, they haven’t had many bounces go their way, couple posts and broken sticks but they continued to press. Halfway through the period on a Saints powerplay, the Cru would get an odd man rush and Arjun Atwal would feed Zach Kaiser on the cross crease to give the Cru a 4-3 lead. Multiple penalties would ensue over the next minute and the game would go to 4v4 hockey for a few minutes. During 4v4, TJ Lloyd would feed Ryan Peckford out front who came right off the bench to tie the game right back up at 4. They wouldn’t get another as the period would end. Shots in the period were 26-10 for the Saints as they would head into the final frame with a 4-4 tie.
The Saints headed into the final period trying to do everything they could to find the go-ahead goal. The Crusaders came out hard in the first 5 minutes of the period. Their season was on the line and they did not go down without a fight. They held the Saints to without a shot for the first quarter of the period, but the Saints did what they’ve been doing the entire series. They fought through it and just kept pushing forward, they didn’t let anything deflate or faze them. Just over halfway through the period, Ryan Peckford stuck with the puck in a battle with Cru defender Michael Bentz. He picked it back up below the right circle and cut out front for a chance. With options out front, Peckford would slide the puck over to Jordan Biro backdoor who would punch the Saints ticket back to the AJHL Finals. With 9 minutes left, the Saint sjust had to hold onto the lead and that would be all she wrote. With the net empty, Cam Mitchell would complete the hattrick and would send the Grant Fuhr crowd into a frenzy. As the clock ran down to 0, the Saints swarmed Matt Davis as they defeat the Cru 6-4 and would eliminate them in 6 games.
Before I leave, I want to give a big shout out and congratulations to the Sherwood Park Crusaders on a record setting regular season. What a 40th anniversary season it was, you made your entire organization, city and fanbase proud for what you guys did this year. With the players and pieces, you have, the future will look bright for while, keep your heads held high.
The Saints will get a couple days rest before they travel down to Brooks. Friday night, they will get ready to take on the Brooks Bandits in Game 1 of the 2019 AJHL Inter Pipeline Cup Finals. #KeepTheCup is not over yet folks, it’s just getting started.