How often does a team with “sleeper potential” actually live up to, let alone exceed expectations?
Well, if you’re struggling to come up with an answer, try on the 2018-19 Sherwood Park Crusaders for size.
Picked by few in the offseason to win the Viterra North Division, the Crusaders stumbled out of the starting blocks by dropping back-to-back games to the Drayton Valley Thunder on opening weekend. From there, they shut the lights out on the AJHL, powering through to the best regular season in franchise history at 44-14-2 by beating Grand Prairie in the final game.
I asked Crusaders general manager Kyle Chase if he thought this was possible back in September.
“Not in the infancy, no,” Chase said. “The more we started playing and the more we started winning one-goal hockey games, we thought ‘hey, we’ve got something special here’.”
So how did this all come to be? Let’s explore that.