photo via Target Photography
It was a bit of a crazy 10 game span for the Sherwood Park Crusaders.
Many players were brought in and out of the team, yet the results still weren’t going the team’s way. In total, the organization made five moves; a few minor and few not so minor.
First off, we’ll start with the minor deals that went through. The team sent 1997-born forward Ryan McKinnon to the Camrose Kodiaks, and goaltender Kyle Dumba was also traded away to Salmon Arm in the BCHL. With the subtraction of those two players, the Crusaders were able to bring in some WHL experience in goaltender Josh Dechaine – who played for the Edmonton Oil Kings – and Sherwood Park native, forward Erik Miller – who played for the Kamloops Blazers. Both of those acquisitions will really benefit this organization in the long run.
However, even with all those deals taking place General Manager, Kyle Chase still had one more big splash to make. On October 31st, the Sherwood Park Crusaders made a deal with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons which would send Ryan Cox to the Crusaders in exchange for their leading goalscorer Merritt Oszytko. This trade was shocking to say to the least. It’s still too early to say how this one with turn out.
Now onto the activities on the ice, the Crusaders currently sit with a record of 9-10-1 which has them right in the middle of the pack in the North Division. Over the 10 game span, Sherwood Park got victories over the Drayton Valley Thunder twice, and also another couple of wins against the Lloydminster Bobcats. The team struggled against the tough teams in the league going 0-6-0 against teams with winning records.
Overall, this team still has a long way to go. They’ve been fun to watch and the development has been clear on the ice. It’ll be interesting to see where this team is at the 30 game mark.
- Able to kill of 24 out of 30 penalties (80%) within those 10 games.
- Rookies like Jacob Franczak, Graham Blanchette, and Eric Blanchette are playing with more freedom and flow to their games. They’re adapting well to the Junior A level.
- Erik Miller has panned out into a solid pickup for the Cru. He was quiet for a few games after his two-goal debut against the Bobcats but has been picking it up as of late.
- Ryan Cox has been great for the Crusaders, despite only dressing in two games between the 10 and 20 game mark. In those two games, he was able to score a goal against his former team (the Fort McMurray Oil Barons) and get the game-winner in the shootout against the Lloydminster Bobcats, earning player of the game in both matchups.
- The compete level is their 99.9% of the time for the Crusaders. They were unfortunate not to win a few more games, especially against the Oil Barons and the Whitecourt Wolverines. Eventually, this team will find ways to beat them, however, we may have to wait until next season to see that happen.
- The powerplay was a decent 19.4% over this time. A few little tweaks here and there and that’ll improve significantly.
- We’re not competitive against either the Drumheller Dragons or Bonnyville Pontiacs. Against Drumheller, they were shut down for the majority of the game and were unable to produce much offense. As for the Pontiacs, the team may as well have not shown up. They went 0 for 8 on the powerplay, were unable to take advantage of Bonnyville being without both Derek Brown and Brandon Whistle, and they even had the lead at one point.
- A bad performance against the Spruce Grove Saints forced Head Coach Adam Manah to make a statement and bench veteran forwards Dylan Stewart and Ryan McKinnon.
- It was great that the Crusaders were able to bring in a top player like Ryan Cox, however, to get a good player you’ve got to give up a good player. That good player was Merritt Oszytko. Oszytko was a big locker room guy for the Crusaders and was also solid for them on the ice. Unfortunate to lose a player of his abilities.
- They occasionally fall asleep in games and it kills them. A perfect example of this was the Oil Barons game on November 3rd. The Crusaders were up 3-2 with 5 minutes remaining in the third. A defensive shut down allowed the Oil Barons to score 3 quick goals and come out victorious 5-3. You’re not going to win many games if you let teams score that quickly on you.
- The Crusaders won only once at home – a 5-3 win over the Lloydminster Bobcats – which is simply not good enough. The team is lurking near the bottom of the North Division. To climb the standings they’ll need more production on home ice.
Unsung Hero – Jacob Franczak
Franczak found himself on the sidelines for the majority of the start of the season. However, the 2000-born centreman has forced Coach Manah’s hand and given him no choice but to keep him in the lineup night in and night out. Franczak started to become more comfortable playing at this level and it’s starting to become noticeable with his on-ice play. He’s started to chip in with a few points, getting his first career goal against the Bobcats in that 5-3 victory. Franczak also chipped in a goal against the Saints and was arguably the best Crusader on the ice that night. His performance has also lead to him being put on the top line a couple of times.
I am a big fan of this Franczak’s game. He plays a solid quiet game and does his job well without much acknowledgment. It’ll be fun watching him develop over the next few years.
1. Ty Readman
Ty Readman is the best player on this Crusaders roster and arguably the best in the AJHL. His puck movement and vision is next level, he’s a solid goal scorer and even plays well on the penalty kill. Over these past ten games, Readman skated in 9 out of 10 whilst producing 12 points (3G, 9A) with four of them coming on the powerplay. The third-year centreman currently leads the team with 27 points in 19 games.
2. William Zapernick
In my first Cru in Review piece, I said Zapernick was the Unsung Hero. Now, he has turned into a big offensive factor for this team.
In nine out of the ten games he skated in, Zapernick became a point-per-game player and has been named the player of the game on two separate occasions – Wolverines on October 28th and Drayton Valley on November 9th.
He’s the hardest working player on the ice every night for the Crusaders, it’s great to see that hard work be rewarded with points.
3. Tyler Pang
He’s a bit of a liability defensively but his offensive side is deadly. Pang’s puck vision is up there with the best in the AJHL. He can pick a pass to anybody on the ice and put it directly on their tape. Without him, the Crusaders wouldn’t have much of an offensive threat coming from the back end.
Over his past 10 games, Pang has been able to produce seven points (1G, 6A) which were the most by a Crusaders defencemen. By the time the end of the season comes around, my bet is that Tyler Pang will lead all defencemen in points in the AJHL.