It’s one of the biggest events of the year for the Alberta Junior Hockey League, but the Sherwood Park Crusaders will be treating their 2 games at the AJHL Showcase, just like any other.
For nearly a decade all 16 AJHL teams have converged to the Tri Leisure Centre in Spruce Grove, Alberta in late September to play in front of hundreds of scouts from the NHL, NCAA, CIS, ACAC and the WHL. The Crusaders will be going up against a pair of South Division teams in the Calgary Mustangs and the Brooks Bandits.
“It doesn’t matter what rink we play in, we need to have that consistency [in our game], because if we get away from that, we are not going to be able to play our best.” Says Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle on playing in front of the plethora of scouts.
The Crusaders for the last few years have been one of the top AJHL programs to have players with NCAA Division 1 scholarships, with the turnover from last year to this year’s team plenty of players will be looking to make good impressions this weekend.
“All the schools I talk to want good players from good programs, we are going to have to play well as a team and the rest will take care of itself.” Added Fragle.
One player that will be looking to make an impression and get some attention is Crusader Forward Cameron Brezinski, who is coming off a week that saw him net 3 goals in 3 games.
“You just have to go out and play your game, some guys find it tough knowing there’s scouts in the stands, if you’re playing your game they’ll notice what you are doing on the ice.” Says Brezinski.
The Crusaders are coming off a big 6-2 victory over the Olds Grizzlys, it was the first time the Crusaders won back to back games this season. Part of the success was the play of Goaltender Tommy Nixon who stopped 32 of 34 shots Sunday afternoon.
“[Nixon] gives us a chance to win every night, even in the Shootout loss to Lloyd, it could have been a Regulation loss if it wasn’t for him.” Said Fragle on his Goaltending.
It is expected Nixon will get the start against the Calgary Mustangs on Thursday who will pose a real threat.
“They are going to be a structured team, you got to earn your offensive chances against them. They have a physical gritty team, we will have our hands full with them, almost like a North Division game.” Fragle noted.
Friday’s opponent will be the Brooks Bandits who are off to a slow start this year, sitting at 3-2-0 and 4 points behind 1st place Drumheller heading into the Showcase.
“They’ve gotten some guys back in the last few weeks that will make impacts on their team, they are going to have a deep lineup and can always count on them to push the pace. We need to take care of our own end and cash in on our opportunities.” Fragle says on the Bandits.
The Crusaders will return home on Sunday the 28th as they welcome the Whitecourt Wolverines for the first time this season. The Cru fell to the Wolverines last Wednesday by a score of 4-1.
Story By Taylor Medak