The Sherwood Park Crusaders will be heading into a bit of the unknown for this weekend’s action. They will be without 2 of their top scorers and their number 1 goaltender, as well as their GM and Head Coach, Tim Fragle.
And all for very good reasons.
Andrew Taverner, Nicholas Jones and Tommy Nixon will be vying for spots on the Canada West Team that is headed to the World Junior A Challenge in Yartmouth, Nova Scotia this early November.
Fragle was invited to the camp, that runs October 26th to the 30th, to help out with the evaluation. But don’t think Tim Fragle won’t keep his eye on his squad for the next bit while Associate Coach Scott McNeil and Assistant Coach Scott Cassels hold the fort down.
“I’m really excited to see a few guys step up, I will be watching via Fast Hockey.” Fragle paying homage to the provider of AJHL Web TV.
The weekend’s games against Drayton Valley and Spruce Grove will give plenty of opportunity for the young Crusaders to move into spots they haven’t been in yet this season.
The injuries as well have provided opportunity for players to get into situations not normally accustomed to this season. But it has had an affect on offensive production.
“We lose a 1 goal game with a short bench due to injuries. We did turnover pucks for the 2nd and 4th goals against. I did like our 3rd period but didn’t cash in on our opportunities.” Fragle recapping the Crusaders last game in the 4-3 loss to Okotoks.
The Cru were forced to move Defenseman Chase Torontow to forward at the start of the game, but due to an injury to Marshall Donald, Torontow was forced to return to the back end.
Donald collided with an Okotoks player in the defensive zone.
“After review I don’t think it was a dirty hit. He could be out for up to a month.” Fragle bearing the bad news about Donald, who was one of the other Crusaders also invited to the Canada West Selection Camp.
Although with the injuries (Donald, Gordon, Croft) and the player absentees, the Crusaders should see Jake Mykitiuk return to the lineup after missing a couple of weeks with an upper body injury, the first year Crusader has 5 points in 5 games and will be relied on with Sean MacTavish to fill in the void of the missing Jones and Taverner.
With Tommy Nixon also at the Canada West Selection Camp, Zac Klassen will to rekindle the success of his hot start, winning his first 3 games, as he will most likely see action the next 3 games. Starting with Drayton Valley Friday night.
Klassen has picked up one of his 3 wins this season versus the Thunder. Friday night’s game will mark the 2nd visit of the season to the Drayton Valley Omni-Plex. It was a 5-2 score for the Cru the first go around.
“Drayton Valley at home is always good, no matter what their record. We will be tested. We need to be ready.” Fragle said of his team’s Friday night opponent.
Heading into Friday’s action, the Thunder sit last in the North Division with 8 points, and 9 points back of the 7th place Grande Prairie Storm. The Cru are sitting 5th and 4 points back of the 3rd place Whitecourt Wolverines with a game in hand.
Saturday night won’t get any easier, as the Spruce Grove Saints will make their 2nd visit to the Sherwood Park Arena this season. Fortunately for the Crusaders, one of the league’s hottest teams’ 4 losses was at the hands of Sherwood Park, in Sherwood Park.
The Saints, who will be looking for their 10th win a row, have a victory against the Cru during their 9 game winning streak.
It was only a week ago where the Saints handled the Crusaders 2-0. Although both teams have each won their game against one another by 2 goals, both teams have been able to keep the games close up until points in the 3rd period. Keeping it tight will be key for Fragle’s team Saturday night.
“[In order for that] we need a better compete level against Spruce. It’s a must. We need to create offensive chances.” Fragle said.
Offensive chances were few and far between in the last meeting for the Crusaders against the Saints.
The Crusaders will have 3 straight games at home after Friday night’s battle in Drayton Valley. Spruce Grove Saturday night, Olds on Wednesday the 30th and wrapping up the home stand November 2nd against Drayton Valley.
Saturday night versus Spruce Grove also marks Pink in The Rink night at the Sherwood Park Arena. If you are coming down to the game, wear your best pink and cheer on the Cru. For more information and for tickets, call the Crusaders office at 780-417-1175.