This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk is joined by AJHL Writer Liam Horrobin to talk about the Crusader’s recent play and the North Division through two months. Also, check out our fancy new player! It comes with an option to directly download the episode to your device so you can listen on the go!
Last season, the Sherwood Park Crusaders finished first in the North Division for the first time in their franchise’s history. It was a massive high-point for this organization, and while most agreed that the team this year would be just as good, I don’t think very many people thought they would be this good.
After 18 games, I can confidently say that I believe the Crusaders will beat their franchise record of 44 wins which they set last season. I’m not sure what the record is for best goal differential, least goals allowed, or more goals scored, but I’m sure they’ll beat those too.
They are that good. The CJHL Rankings confirm that as well. After being snubbed and left out of the Top 20 list at the beginning of the season (and not even given an honourable mention) the team has had a regular presence on the list and in my opinion, should be considered not just the best team in the AJHL, but the best team in the country.
In October, they suffered just one loss, and it came on October 5th at the hands of the Okotoks Oilers, who are a damned good team themselves. Apart from that loss, the team won 11 games with only one of those wins being by less than two goals. I put it in bold font because it’s that impressive.
They outscored their opposition 54-20 and haven’t allowed more than one goal against in a game since 6-3 win over the Drayton Valley Thunder on October 14th. That’s a six-game stretch.
Given that yesterday was Halloween, I’ll tell you something that should really scare the rest of the North Division: it looks like the team is somehow getting better.
At the beginning of the season, they were winning a lot of games because of their three big offensive weapons Carter Savoie, Arjun Atwal, and Will Zapernick. That’s not the case anymore, in fact, over their last three games they’ve gotten goals from 11 different players. Their depth is really starting to shine through, and that will only make them more difficult to beat.
Right now, the only team in league with as many wins as them is the Brooks Bandits and while the Bandits haven’t lost a game yet, they have been pushed to a shootout three times. The Crusaders have racked up all 18 of their wins in regulation time. That’s also very impressive.
I don’t mean to sound like a homer or anything, but they straight up dominated the month of October, and I really don’t want to understate just how impressive it was.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH
In September, I wasn’t shy to point out that Carter Gylander didn’t look like the same goalie we saw last season. Whenever I did say it, I was quick to point out that he was a supremely talented goaltender, the trip to Russia probably just threw him off a little bit, and it was just a matter of time until he returned to form.
He did that in October, and he gets the Player of The Month nod.
He started seven games in October and allowed just 12 goals while stopping 142 shots. The offence has been great and the fact they have averaged over five goals for per game so far this season has kind of taken away from how strong the goaltending has been. But it shouldn’t.
Gylander was fantastic in October and is a very deserving Player of The Month. I don’t expect his play to really drop off either. There’s a good chance he’s this good for the rest of the season, and if he is, he’ll be in the Goaltender of the Year conversation.
While I have been waxing poetic about how good the Crusaders have been, they have a very tough test this weekend with back-to-back games against the Spruce Grove Saints. Honestly, I would say that it’s more likely than not that their winning streak ends this weekend. The Saints are a solid team and have only suffered three losses this season as well.
Considering that this is the first matchup between the two teams since they played in the North Division final last year, I expect a pair of emotionally charged matchups. They’ll be at the Sherwood Park Arena on Friday night and out in Spruce Grove on Saturday night.
Following a big set of back-to-back games, the Cru will take the ice six more times in November with four of those games being on home ice. That’s excellent news for this team. A relaxed schedule that has them playing at the SPA for the majority of the month should allow them to stay rested and healthy.
They’ll also play a neutral site game at the Derald Palmer Memorial Arena up in Fox Creek (some call it Fox Vegas) on Sunday, November 17th against the Whitecourt Wolverines.
The Crusaders rolled through the month of October & Tyler Yaremchuk recaps it all and talks to defenseman Mat Shatsky on this weeks episode of #InsideTheCru
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk talks about the team being ranked #2 in the country & chats with the highest-scoring 16-year-old in the AJHL, Ty Mueller!
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk goes through the teams three wins on Thanksgiving weekend & talks to Brennan McDonnell about his journey from Florida to Sherwood Park.
Currently on a three-game winning streak, the Crusaders welcomed the Drayton Valley Thunder to the Sherwood Park Arena to complete a Thanksgiving weekend homestand. It has been a wildly successful homestand as well. It got started on Friday with a tight, divisional win over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and followed it up with a 6-2 victory over the Drumheller Dragons.
There’s really been nothing but positives for the Crusaders through the first 12 games of the season. Their schedule has been rather relaxed considering that the only true elite team they’ve played this year is the Okotoks Oilers but you can only beat who they schedule you to play against and the Crusaders haven’t just been doing enough to get two points, on most nights, they’ve been straight up dominating the opposition.
Here’s how things went down this afternoon:
The Crusaders got off to a flying start this afternoon with a pair of goals within the first three minutes of the game. First, it was the team’s top line of Atwal/Savoie/Zapernick connecting for Zapernick’s ninth goal of the season. Just 20 seconds later they got another one, this time it was Jarred White finding the back of the net.
The first five minutes of this game was straight-up dominated by the home side. The Thunder didn’t manage to get a shot on goal until the 13:30 mark of the opening frame. The Cru would extend their lead one more time with Kaden Bryant jumping on a loose puck in the slot.
After that, the Thunder started to get some momentum back. It started with a powerplay opportunity with about ten minutes to go in the period. They didn’t score but they managed to get some puck possession under their belt and they got on the board shortly after the powerplay expired when Ty Whitford finished off an excellent passing play. The Thunder would get one more back shortly afterwards with rookie Grayson Reid getting his second of the season.
After a dominant start, the Crusaders simply let the Thunder back into this game.
The goal-scoring dried up a little bit in the second period but the one goal that was scored was an absolute beauty. Carter Savoie scooped up a pass from Ty Mueller and managed to fend off a Drayton Valley Thunder defenseman, who was draped all over him, drag the puck past an Eric Ward poke check attempt, and slide a backhander in along the ice.
From there, things started to get pretty heated. These two teams combined for 54 penalty minutes in the period with 42 of them being handed out with just over three minutes remaining after Davis Murray ran over Thunder goalie Eric Ward and sparked a pretty major melee.
Once things cooled down, and the blood got scraped off the ice (literally) play resumed and the Crusaders were able to run out the clock and head back into the room with their two-goal lead in-tact.
After a very eventful middle frame, these two teams delivered a rather boring final period, which is probably exactly what Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah wanted. They didn’t allow very many if any, high-danger chances for the majority of the period and really just kept the puck away from Carter Gylander as much as possible.
The Cru would add to their lead when Ty Mueller fired home a wrister, his third point of the game. Drayton Valley would capitalize on a powerplay with just over two minutes to go to make it a 5-3 game. Jarred White also threw one more home, his second of the game, in the final minute of the game to make it 6-3 for the Cru. That’s how things would end as the Crusaders win their fourth in a row and improve to 12-1-0 on the season.
- The top-line continues to be productive but today they got a couple of goals from lower in their lineup. If this team is going to push for a title, they’ll need to keep getting contributions from everyone on their roster.
- Carter Savoie continued his strong draft year with a beautiful goal to extend his goal-scoring streak to a league-high ten games. The only game he hasn’t scored in was the team’s second win of the season against Lloydminster.
- Carter Gylander didn’t have to make too many great saves, but he was solid tonight. He’s finding a consistent groove and I feel like these last two games have been his best two-game stretch of the season.
- I often forget that Ty Mueller is just 16-years-old. He plays such a smooth, steady game. You rarely see him make a mistake and I’m sure the Crusaders are hoping that a good offensive performance helps him get a little bit more confident with the puck on his stick. I think he has the potential to be one of the best players in the league within the next 12-18 months.
- The hot start to the game was great to see, but you could tell they took their foot off the gas a little bit after they went up 3-0. They’ve blown out a few teams this year and it felt like they thought this was just going to turn into ‘point-night’.
- The two big momentum-changing moments from a Drayton Valley perspective came after the Crusaders gave them looks on the powerplay. The Crusaders penalty kill has been good and while it didn’t allow a goal today, it did allow the Thunder to gain some steam.
The Crusaders will have the next three days off before heading up to Fort McMurray for a weekend set against the Oil Barons. It’s been a bit of a rough start to the year for the new-look Oil Barons who sit sixth in the North Division with a 4-7-1 record but they did play the Crusaders pretty tightly this past Friday so I’m expecting a pair of close games next weekend at the Casman Centre in Fort Mac.
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk breaks down the Crusaders weekend road trip & talks to rookie forward Nick Magis.
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk recaps a highly successful first month of the season for the Sherwood Park Crusaders & talks with AJHL Player of the Month Carter Savoie.
I don’t think the Sherwood Park Crusaders could have dreamt up a better start to the season than they just had. Through one month of play, the Crusaders are 7-0 and have been winning rather decisively.
They got the year going on home ice with a 7-5 victory over the Lloydminster Bobcats and from there, they defeated the Bobcats once again, the Thunder, the Wolverines, and the Oil Barons by a combined score of 19-6.
From there, they went on the AJHL Showcase in Camrose and put their dominance on display in front of the entire league. They kicked off the weekend with a 6-3 win over the Drumheller Dragons and then capped off their Showcase with a thrilling 6-5 victory over the Okotoks Oilers.
Even though they’re ranked 2nd in the CJHL, you could make an argument that the Sherwood Park Crusaders are still not at their best. Carter Gylander has had a tough start to the season posting a 3.55 GAA to go with an 0.855 SV%. Even Gylander himself would likely admit that he was not his best in September. You can’t blame him either. He was in Russia with Team AJHL and didn’t see any game action during the JCWC. The fact that he came to camp late, after spending time overseas, and not playing a game is a good enough reason to cut Gylander a lot of slack. He’ll be better as the season continues.
Jordan Frey has picked up the slack though. He’s started his Crusaders career with three wins in three starts, one shutout, a 1.50 GAA, and a 0.915 SV%. He was dynamite, and for me, he’s been the biggest surprise on this roster through seven games.
Here are some other storylines from the first month of play:
Go to www.AJHL.ca and click on the “League Leaders” link. A page will pop up that shows you who has scored the most points in the entire league so far this season. The first three names are all members of the Sherwood Park Crusaders’ top line.
Simply put: Arjun Atwal, Carter Savoie, and Will Zapernick have been virtually unstoppable through seven games. The trio has combined for 53 points through their first seven games. That’s a staggeringly good number.
I said at the beginning of the season that if this trio played together, they would be the highest-scoring line in the AJHL. They’re living up to the hype, and right now, I can’t see a scenario where Adam Manah would want to break them up.
Their top line is scoring, but they’re also getting contributions from the back end. Michael Benning is over a point-per-game, and Brennan McDonnell has four points in seven games. Upfront, Jarred White and Jacon Franczak have provided the secondary scoring. Both players are over a point-per-game. Getting that depth scoring is what will help later in the year and into the playoffs, and it’s something I’ll be keeping a close eye on as we roll through the season.
A NEAR PERFECT PENALTY KILL
They have not allowed a powerplay goal so far this season. Their PK is a 29-for-29. To me, that is a testament to how much these players are willing to fight for each other and how much they’ve bought into what Adam Manah and Jeff Woywitka are preaching.
The powerplay was ice cold to start the season, but they’ve since found their groove, and now they have the best powerplay percentage in the league (28.13%). When they were struggling, Head Coach, Adam Manah told me that it was simply some guys gripping their sticks too tight and some guys just not being in mid-season form yet with the puck on their stick. He was right not to be concerned. That group is too talented to not get hot with the man advantage at some point. Now it’s a matter of them staying hot and proving they can consistently be good.
GM Kyle Chase was busy in September, as he often is, and added a pair of former WHL players to a forward core that was already one of the deepest in the league.
Blake Sydlowski was brought in after being released by the Red Deer Rebels, and while he hasn’t registered a point quite yet, I think he’ll be an impact player by the end of the season. Same with Davis Murray. The Former Oil King has only appeared in two games with the Cru, but I liked him during his time in the WHL. Once these two get acclimated to the AJHL, I think they’ll start to stand out.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH
It absolutely has to be Arjun Atwal. The Crusaders Captain leads the league in scoring and got some recognition from the league, being named the Offensive Player of the Week.
I loved the decision to make Atwal the team Captain. I think he’s an excellent leader both on and off the ice. This month, he’s been their leader on the scoresheet as well. His offensive production is outstanding, and what I love about Atwal is even if the offence dries up (which I doubt it will) he’s still a guy who won’t change his game. He’s solid at both ends of the rink, and honestly, I think he’s the heartbeat of this team.
If you want to hear more from Arjun, you can listen to my interview with him on ‘Inside The AJHL’ HERE.
LOOKING AT OCTOBER
The Crusaders will take to the ice 12 times this month (5-home & 7-away) starting with a three-game southern road trip that will see them take on the Canmore Eagles, Okotoks Oilers, and Olds Grizzlies. From there, they will return home for three straight games (Fort McMurray, Drumheller, Drayton Valley).
One thing that jumps off the page to me: four matchups against the Oil Barons. We saw these two clubs develop a bit of a rivalry last season and there were some heated moments in their first game of the season earlier this month. For the full schedule, HEAD HERE: https://admin.esportsdesk.com/leagues/schedules.cfm?selectedMonth=10&selectedYear=2019&selectedTeamID=536976&selectedOfficialID=0&leagueID=3464&clientID=1705&embedLID=3464&embedCID=1705&whichSched=main&mixed=1&teamID=536976
The Crusaders are off to a great start to the 2019/20 campaign. Tyler Yaremchuk breaks it all down and chats with goaltender Jordan Frey in this weeks episode of #InsideTheCru