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.
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.