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.
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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). order cytotec online overnight shipping 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!
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.
The Sherwood Park Crusaders welcome the Drumheller Dragons to the Sherwood Park Arena for game two of a three-game homestand this long weekend. Both teams played Friday night, with Sherwood Park in a close(ish) battle with Fort McMurray. The Cru came out on top with a 4-3 win.
Meanwhile, Drumheller lost at home 5-3 to the Okotoks Oilers. The Dragons currently sit third in the South at 6-3-2. Sherwood Park sits atop the North with a 10-1-0 record.
Carter Gylander gets the start for the Cru, giving Jordan Frey a night off. The Detroit Red Wings prospect had a rough start to the season, he’s undefeated at 6-0, however his save percentage wasn’t so hot to start the year, it is improving though.
At the other end of the rink, Cale Elder has the opposite problem. His save percentage has been dropping with every game this season. Friday night he posted a 5.14 GAA and a 0.843 save percentage in the loss to Okotoks.
The Cru came out flying to start the first, they definitely don’t look tired from Friday’s matchup. A lot of crisp passes and smooth zone entries. Sherwood Park played solid in their own end as well, limiting Drumheller’s chances. The Dragons weren’t doing themselves any favours though, with some sloppy play in their own end.
11 minutes in Nicholas Magis opened the scoring for his second goal of the year, with the feed from Tanner Fincaryk.
Drumheller went on the powerplay immediately after that with an interference call on William Zapernick, which turned into a brief 5 on 3 after a tripping call on Michael Benning. Gylander made a couple of great stops to keep Sherwood Park up by one.
The Cru’s second line got on the board to make it 2-0, with Ty Mueller finding the back of the net with two minutes left in the first. Jarred White and Jacob Franczak with the assists.
Just 30 seconds later Carter Savoie made it 3-0 for the Crusaders, William Zapernick and defenseman Reid Irwin with the helpers on that one.
Sherwood Park went on the powerplay to end the opening frame, they’ll start the second with 1:39 left on the man advantage. It looks like it could be a long night for Drumheller, the Crusaders end the first up 3-0.
The Crusaders had one decent chance on the PP, but so did Drumheller. They rang one off the post for a near short hander. But Drumheller took a high sticking penalty to give the good guys 26 seconds of a 5 on 3.
Some awesome puck movement by the Cru, and a handful of shots on net, but Cale Elder made several stunning saves to keep the Dragons in it.
Some shoving after the whistle in front of Sherwood Park’s net put the Crusaders back on the man advantage, but no luck for the Cru.
The Dragons had a brief breakaway, but that was broken up with a trip by Reid Irwin. Drumheller quickly took advantage on the powerplay, with a blast from the point by Eric Martin, with assists from Shane Ott, and Derrick Budz.
Things started to get chippy as the second period started to wind down.
After a trip by William Zapernick, Drumheller made it 3-2 on another point shot on the powerplay, this time from Roc Truman, helpers from Eric Martin, and Kaden Hanas.
Bryce Bader put Drumheller back on the man advantage with a cross-check and Arjun Atwal got 10-minutes after some words with the officials, but the Dragons couldn’t capitalize.
Another scrum in front of the visitors’ net led to misconduct calls for Sherwood Park’s Nicholas Magis and Drumheller’s Kent Anderson. Ty Mueller landed a huge hit at centre ice to cap off a physical second period.
Sherwood Park leads 3-2 heading into the third.
Sherwood Park started the final period on the powerplay after a Drumheller penalty to end the second, and it didn’t take long for them to convert. A little over 30 seconds in, the Cru gave themselves some breathing room with a blast from Carter Savoie, his second goal on the night. Michael Benning and Ty Mueller with the assists. 4-2 Crusaders.
A trip by Drumheller put the Cru back on the powerplay. Ty Mueller quickly put a huge rebound into an open net after the initial shot from Reid Irwin, Jarred White also had an assist on the play.
Before they even finished announcing the last goal, Jacob Franczak scored to give Sherwood Park a comfy 6-2 lead. Tanner Fincaryk with the lone assist.
A nasty hit from behind by Drumheller’s Steven Zonnevald gave the home team another 5 on 3 powerplay, Joel Patsey also got a roughing call on the play. Sherwood Park reacted which also sent Nicholas Magis to the sin bin, but the Cru didn’t add to their lead.
Once again, more rough stuff after the whistle in front of Carter Gylander. Drumheller’s leading scorer Kaden Hanas was given a misconduct after punching a Crusader in the face. Kobe Mohr also got a two for roughing after the whistle, to give the Crusaders another powerplay.
Michael Benning broke his stick in a shot attempt and raced back to the bench to grab another. He gave up as Drumheller heading into the offensive zone, without a stick Michael Benning broke up the play beautifully.
The Cru’s Davis Murray and Drumheller’s Grayson Dietrich both received misconducts with just 12 seconds left in the game, after more pushing and shoving after the whistle.
The Crusaders take home another win, with a final score of 6-2.
- The Crusaders penalty kill remains strong despite giving up two powerplay goals.
- Passing, especially on the powerplay, continues to be strong great puck movement from the powerplay units. A ton of great breakouts from the defensive zone as well.
- Carter Gylander looked great, making a ton of great stops to keep the Cru up, especially on the penalty kill. He finished the night with 31 saves on 33 shots.
- Michael Benning only had one assist on the night, but he made some awesome defensive plays. That one in the third without his stick was glorious.
- Ty Mueller had two goals and a helper, which earned him the first star on the night.
- Sherwood Park took way too many penalties, especially in retaliation and roughing after the whistle. They have a strong PK but they’ll need more discipline against stronger teams.
- The Cru’s leading scorer, Arjun Atwal, took himself out of the game with a 10-minute major for mouthing off to a ref. It was still a close game, not a wise move to take yourself out of it.
The Sherwood Park Crusaders wrap up their three-game homestand holiday Monday versus the Drayton Valley Thunder, puck drop is at 2:15 pm at the Sherwood Park Arena.
The Sherwood Park Crusaders kick off a three-game homestand over the Thanksgiving long weekend, starting Friday night versus the lowly Fort McMurray Oil Barons. Fort Mac comes into the game with a record of 3-5-1, they split a two-game homestand with the Spruce Grove Saints last weekend.