The Sherwood Park Crusaders continue their march in the AJHL playoffs.
They will open their second-round series against a powerhouse Spruce Grove Saints team tonight.
It's a quick turnaround for the team, as they are coming off an emotional seven-game series win against the Fort Mac Oil Barons on Tuesday (Mar. 22).
"It was one of the more intense series I have been a part of in my time in the league," said head coach Evan McFeeters. "It was intense, heavy-hitting, very physical, momentum swings both ways, it was only fitting we were able to play seven games and bring it back to home ice to push it over the top."
The Crusaders won that deciding game seven by a score of 4-1 with the winner being scored by Brendan Kuny in the second period.
Things won't get much easier in the second round as the Saints finished atop the North division and second in the league, losing just seven times in regulation in 60 games. However, one of those losses came at the hands of the Crusaders early in the season.
"We're one of the only teams to beat them in the regular season," said McFeeters. "We know we can match up well with them."
"[We have to] make life as uncomfortable as possible for a team that is feeling pretty good about themselves."
The season series started with a 4-3 Crusaders win, followed by five straight victories by the Saints: 5-3, 5-3, 4-3, 7-0, and 7-1.
The 4-3 game was razor-thin, requiring an 11-round shootout.
McFeeters says they will need to shut down Spruce's top players and get at them early if they want to be successful.
"Our gameplan starts by taking their big guns off the board, making life difficult on them," said McFeeters. "Playing with the puck as much as possible has always been part of our repertoire this year and we wanna make sure we carry possession."
"For us, it's managing the puck, continuing to have sustained o-zone time, and keeping the blue paint clean in our end.
The series will open up in Spruce Grove tonight at Grant Fuhr arena, puck drop is set for 7 p.m.
Game two goes in Spruce as well on Saturday (Mar. 25). The Crusaders will return to home ice for games three and four scheduled for Tuesday (Mar. 28) and Wednesday (Mar. 29).