photo via Target Photography
Welcome to a new series, Crusaders fans! Brenden Escott here–the voice of the Cru broadcasts and the host of Crusaders TV–bringing you a new editorial series on your beloved AJHL franchise. Tune in throughout the season to get my thoughts on the team, the league and all things Crusaders. Enjoy the first edition of From the Broadcast Booth!
Now that the wildfire smoke has cleared, the smell of hockey season has taken over at the Sherwood Park Arena. Main Camp wrapped up on Monday with the intrasquad game, known to some as the Top 40 game.
Team White (Whiteridge) took on Team Black (TnT High Pressure) in a game that started out hot with three goals coming on the first seven shots of the game between the two squads.
*Let me say that everything from here on out is strictly my own opinion and doesn’t necessarily reflect that of team management or coaching staff*
Despite lots of players trying to leave a lasting impression on management, nerves didn’t seem to be at the forefront. Passes were crisp, shots were hard, and chemistry was evident.
The game wrapped up 6-5 in favour of Team Black, though Team White made it interesting in the final minutes after Michael Benning slashed into the slot and buried a beautiful pass with 1:28 left in the game.
Rookies Carter Savoie and Zafir Rawji dazzled time and again for Team Black, finding each other on outlet passes, two-on-ones and just about any other facet of the game. They’re both going to be tremendous additions to the team, in my opinion.
“It’s probably one of the best black and white games we’ve had in a lot of years,” said General Manager Kyle Chase of Monday’s game.
“Lots of talent out there. We have huge upside on the back end right now as far as young talent coming in—we’re very fortunate. And even the forward group, for that matter, it’s been a very deep group of players as far as skill and ability go.”
With several players from last year’s team currently off at WHL camps, the door has been wide open this weekend for young players to make an impact. Savoie, Rawji, Benning and Tanner Fincaryk were all thrust into big minutes in the intrasquad matchup and absolutely sparkled. If these names land on the regular season roster, the Crusaders will likely have the best crop of rookies in the AJHL.
That being said, there’s a chance that forwards Arjun Atwal (Prince George), Erik Miller (Swift Current), Blake Sydlowski (Red Deer), Brendan Stafford (Lethbridge), rearguard Tyler Jette (Tri-City) and goaltender Matt Berlin (Kootenay) could return from WHL teams and bolster an already talented roster.
Next up for the Cru is a trip to Camrose for exhibition games against Drumheller, Camrose and Whitecourt—those run Wednesday through Friday. Roster movement will take place thereafter, meaning this will be the last chance for anyone on the roster bubble to cement a role.
The only home pre-season game goes down on Sunday, September 2 against the Olds Grizzlies at the Sherwood Park Arena.
Overall, though it’s early in the process, this team has the looks of a group that could make a deep playoff run. A solid group of young talent insulated by veteran stalwarts is a recipe for success at any level, and the Crusaders have just that.
Stay tuned throughout the year for more ramblings from the broadcast booth.