One week ago today, the Sherwood Park Crusaders season finished in defeat against their biggest rivals the Bonnyville Pontiacs. The Pontiacs moved onto the north semi-finals of the AJHL Gas Drive playoffs while the Crusaders look the forward to next season.
Despite the early knockout, the Crusaders have plenty of positives to take away from this season. From the emergence of the second-year forward, Ty Readman, to rookie goaltender Brandon Vogel who was outstanding for the Cru. The Crusaders were led once again offensively by Tyler Maltby who not only led his team in goals but the league too with 38. On the back end, veterans Ben Sowa and Chase Torontow were both rocks for the team all year long. The two of them both surpassed their point totals from last season too.
General manager, Kyle Chase, was busy all season long attempting to improve his team in any way he could. The acquisition of Cam Reagan, Gage Joel, and Jesse Zaharichuk were massive bringing more skill and depth to the lineup. Reagan finished the season seventh on the team in scoring, despite being a defenseman and was only one point away from being a point per game. If he had played the whole season for the Cru he would’ve been in the talk for AJHL defenseman of the year.
As previously stated, there were plenty of positives to take away from this season. With that being said it’s time we gave out some awards.
I would just like to make a quick note that these are not the official Sherwood Park Crusaders awards. The official awards will be given out tomorrow by the team themselves. These awards are were decided but us here at Below the Ice.
Offensive Player of the Year
Tyler Maltby was amazing for the Crusaders this season. The fourth-year forward racked up 68 points in just 49 games giving him the fourth best points per game in the league. Maltby also finished first in the league in scoring even though he missed 11 games in the regular season. Not too many players, if any, have the speed, strength, and scoring ability that number 16 possesses. The Crusaders forward took a big step this season in his final junior year and who knows if he hadn’t of missed some many games he could’ve hit the 50 goal mark. We will never know.
Honourable mentions: Ty Readman (68 points), Matt Dykstra (52 points), Tanner Younghans (49 points)
Defensive Player of the Year
The former WHL man came into the team half through the season but it didn’t take him long to settle in. Offensively, Reagan was a beast on the powerplay with his hard slap shot which made it extremely difficult for opposing goaltenders to stop. Through 31 games Cam Reagan put up 30 points which tied him for second most by a defenseman with Chase Torontow. Not only was he great offensively, Reagan was a wall on the defensive side of the puck too with his aggressive and no-nonsense style of play. Much like Maltby, it would’ve been interesting to see how good Reagan could’ve been if he’d been in Sherwood Park for the whole season. Luckily for us, we’ll get to witness it next season.
Honourable mentions: Ben Sowa (44 points), Chase Torontow (30 points)
The first year Crusader was the hardest working player on the ice every night. You can guarantee that he’d be skating hard every shift and doing whatever it took to give his team the winning edge. His tremendous efforts this year were rewarded with 49 points which are career high numbers for him and a scholarship to NAIT next year. Younghans may not be the most skilled player on the ice but he sure is the most dedicated and hardest working player out there.
Honourable mentions: Matt Dykstra (52 points), Merritt Oszytko (41 points), Ben McLeod (10 points)
Rookie of the Year
16 year-olds in the AJHL are usually affiliate players who will play a hand full of games a year, that was not the case for Brendan Stafford. Stafford put together a nice first season for the Cru with 24 points and did not miss a game all season. The centreman showed great skill and as the season went on you could see him develop and adjust to the league’s play. He’s also an excellent penalty killer and was unfortunate not to finish the year with at least a couple of short-handed goals. When next season comes around, we should see Stafford be given a bigger role with the Crusaders.
Honourable mentions: Koletrane Wilson (11 points), Brandon Wallis (16 points), and Brett Roberts (7 points)
When BTI first started attending Crusaders games Wilson was a defenseman that was struggling to adjust to the AJHL game. That was not the case at all come season’s end. Koletrane Wilson was an absolute warrior for the Crusaders with his huge hits and his shot blocker. I remember during one game (can’t remember the opponent) Wilson blocked a hard slap shot and was clearly in pain on the ice. That did not stop him from getting back up and literally throwing his body in front of another shot. There are not many players who would put their bodies on the line like he did that night. We’ve also seen his offensive game develop throughout the season and have seen him on the powerplay from time to time. Now that Sowa and Torontow have graduated from junior, Wilson will have the opportunity to step into a top defensive role for the Crusaders next season. I am really excited to watch him play next in 2018.
Honourable mentions: Merritt Oszytko (41 points), Jesse Zaharichuk (21 points), and Brett Roberts (7 points)