This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk chats with Crusader’s defenseman Vinny Prospal on the team’s loss to Bonnyville, his transition to the AJHL, and more!
The Sherwood Park Crusaders look to close off an undefeated month of November that has led them to a 24-2-0 record to take sole possession of the number one spot in the North Division with 48 points. Tonight’s game will be Crusaders fan’s first chance to take a look at the team’s new acquisition of Jacob Kendall, who suits up for his first home game at Sherwood Park Arena against his former club. Kendall comes to the Crusaders with 15 goals and 23 points in 25 games in his overage season. The forward brings another scoring threat to the line-up along with a veteran presence and added strength.
When asked to describe his game in an interview with Tyler Yaremchuk on Inside the Cru, Kendall stated, “I like to play in the corners, play a hard style of game, be hard to play against. That’s what I pride myself on.” Kendall comes into this game on the second line for the Crusaders, on the left side of Ty Mueller and Jarred White.
The Kodiaks come into this game hungry for two points after taking a shootout loss to the Okotoks Oilers earlier this week. The club has stayed at a steady pace throughout the season, putting up a respectable 11-12-3 record that has them slotted in the middle of the pack in the South division. They aren’t a team the juggernaut Crusaders should take lightly though. The Kodiaks have the offensive weapons to steal a game on any given night, including former Crusader Cody Laskosky, who has had himself an unbelievable season so far in Camrose putting up 34 points in just 24 games.
Here’s how things went down:
This week on #InsideTheCru Tyler Yaremchuk is joined newly acquired Crusaders forward Jake Kendall! He also talks about the next week on the teams’ schedule and some changes coming to the AJHL.
This week on Inside The Cru Tyler Yaremchuk takes a look at the team’s recent run, talks about if they can catch the Brooks Bandits for the top spot in the league, keeps an eye on some potential record-breakers, and more!
This week on the podcast, Tyler Yaremchuk talks to Crusader’s defenseman Max Wutzke on his first few months with the team and a 2018 injury that put more than just his hockey career at risk.
Tonight, the best team in the AJHL’s North Division was taking on the hottest team in the North as the Bonnyville Pontiacs, who have won five of their last six games, rolled into the Sherwood Park Arena to take on the 20-2-0 Crusaders.
The Cru has been enjoying some time off as of late. They haven’t played since last Wednesday when they beat the Lloydminster Bobcats 4-0. For the Pontiacs, they’re coming off a 3-0 loss to the Canmore Eagles but before that, had rattled off five consecutive wins.
This was also the first meeting of the year between these two teams. Considering that there’s a very real possibility that these two teams end up meeting in the playoffs, tonight is a big measuring stick game for both sides.
Here’s how things played out:
The opening frame got off to a bit of a slow start, but the Crusaders managed to get on the board first thanks to a great shift by their fourth line. The play started in their own zone and ended with a nice passing play that Brett Hyland initiated, and Brett Weishcorster finished off.
The Pontiacs needed just ten seconds to respond as Marc-Antoine Benoit stepped into the o-zone and ripped home a wrist shot. His 10th of the season was an absolute beauty.
The Crusaders seemed to pick it up for the remainder of the first period. They hit a pair of goalposts and had a handful of nice chances on their first powerplay opportunity; they just couldn’t find the back of the net.
The period ended 1-1.
The Crusader’s top line got on the scoresheet just 54 seconds into the period. Will Zapernick netted his 16th of the year while Carter Savoie got an assist, which padded his lead in the AJHL scoring race. He’s up to 45 points on the year. Michael Benning also picked up his 34th point of the year. He leads all defensemen in scoring.
Once again, Bonnyville had a response and evened things up at two around the eight-minute mark. The second period was much closer than the first, and honestly, Bonnyville did a pretty good job of putting pressure on the Crusaders. You can only prevent the Crusaders from getting offensive chances for so long, but I thought the Pontiacs played a suffocating style of hockey. They’re a much quicker team than I thought they’d be.
Neither team found the back of the net again in the second period.
Right off the bat, the Crusaders were given back-to-back chances with the man advantage, but they weren’t able to generate much in the form of high-danger chances. Given the amount of skill they have, I would like to see them have more of a killer instinct when they’re given powerplays at crucial moments. Tonight’s poor performance dropped them to fourth in the AJHL in terms of PP%.
Of course, as it usually goes in hockey, once the Pontiacs killed off their two minor penalties they were given their own set of back-to-back powerplays. The funny thing about this sequence from a Crusaders perspective is that they almost scored on a shorthanded two-on-one. Their best chance during the first ten minutes of the period came while shorthanded, not during one of their two powerplays.
While their powerplay let them down, their penalty kill bailed them out during the first ten minutes.
The home side even got another chance on the powerplay in the final ten minutes, and once again, they had nothing to show for it. They did seem to gain some momentum from their sixth powerplay opportunity of the night and controlled the play for the rest of regulation.
With just over two minutes remaining, the Crusaders got one more shot with the man-advantage, and they did not let this one go to waste. Jarred White scooped up the puck in the neutral zone, and just as he did, a Pontiacs defenseman blew a tire and White walked in and fired one over the glove hand side of Easton Hesse (who was very good tonight). hop over to these guys That gave the Crusaders a 3-2 lead, and they held on for the victory.
- The biggest knock on this Crusaders team was that they hadn’t been playing top-level opponents very often early in the year. Three of their last four games have been against very good teams, and they’ve continued to look good. I thought it was a petty criticism, but it was out there, and the Crusaders are proving their doubters wrong.
- There were A LOT of powerplays tonight and personally, I love that. Powerplays are exciting and encourage offence. As long as things are consistent, I don’t mind a game with ten powerplays.
- Sherwood Park has made out-shooting their opposition a habit. They’ve been outshot twice this year. Once to Okotoks and once to the Saints. Other than that, they consistently out-chanced their opponents.
- Before they got their final goal, they had to stop two shorthanded rushed by the Pontiacs. Michael Benning made a great play on one, and Reid Irwin stood tall on the other rush. Impressive plays that don’t show up in the boxscore.
The powerplay needed to get them a goal. Simple as that.Scratch that point. The powerplay got them a clutch goal.
- Allowing Bonnyville to tie the game ten seconds after getting the first goal really changed the momentum of this game, in my opinion. Tonight could have been very different if that hadn’t happened.
- I’m sure they would have liked to not have to kill off five penalties, but their discipline hasn’t really been an issue this year, and this was a night where the refs weren’t letting very much go.
- I’m going to sound soft here, but I don’t like seeing the Crusaders instigate things after the whistle. Sometimes the situation calls for it, and you need to stand up for a teammate, but the Crusaders are so skilled that I don’t think they need to run around instigating things. Beat teams with skill and don’t give teams a spark with physical altercations. Skate them into the ground.
The Crusaders will look to win their fourth in a row this Saturday night when they roll into Revolution Arena to take on the Grande Prairie Storm. Puck drop goes just after 7. Also, don’t forget that a new episode of Inside The Cru will drop this Thursday and you can tune into TSN 1260 this Saturday for Inside The AJHL!
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!
Photo via Target Photography
It’s hockey hooky at the Sherwood Park Arena. Hundreds of local school kids are skipping class to watch the Crusaders take on the Lloydminster Bobcats. After a tough loss to the Spruce Grove Saints last Friday, the Cru came back with a dominant 6-2 win Saturday to take the second game of the home at home.
This should be an easy one for Sherwood Park; the Bobcats are dead last in the AJHL North standings with a record of 2-15-3, the Cru remains atop the standings posting a 19-2-0 record.
A stellar game on tap Friday night at the Sherwood Park Arena as the Crusaders welcome the Spruce Grove Saints for a home-at-home series. Sherwood Park had another dominating 7-1 win on the road Tuesday in Drayton Valley, to improve to 18-1-0 on the season, and remain atop the AJHL North standings. Right behind them are the Saints with a record of 15-3-0.
This is the busiest I’ve seen this rink since I started covering the team, one of the bartenders tells me there are just 200 tickets left for tonight’s tilt. Sounds like Saints fans are making up a chunk of the crowd as well, with some pretty loud cheers as Spruce Grove hit the ice.
The Cru will have to shut down Ryan Peckford, he leads the Saints in scoring with 13 goals and 14 assists. Three of those goals game last Tuesday versus Lloydminster, Peckford also had three assists for a massive six-point performance. The Stony Plain product has six multipoint nights this season, including five points back in September versus Whitecourt.
Mathew Davis starts for the Saints, he’s having a great season and comes into Friday’s battle with an 11-1-0 record, a 1.90 GAA, and save percentage of .920. The home team counters with Detroit Red Wings prospect Carter Gylander, he boasts a record of 12-0-0, with a 2.14 GAA, and a .923 save percentage.
Here’s hoping for a back and forth battle, while the Crusaders are a blast to watch it’ll be nice to see the boys face some stiff competition.
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.