Sherwood Park Crusaders VS Camrose Kodiaks September 21st, 2017 – 12:00pm
SHERWOOD PARK, AB – The Sherwood Park Crusaders will look to improve on their impressive start in 2017-18 as they take on the Camrose Kodiaks in the inaugural Hockey Hooky Day, Thursday afternoon in Sherwood Park.
The Crusaders came out of the gates flying to kick off the AJHL campaign with 7-4 and 5-2 wins over Drayton Valley last weekend.
“I thought we were pretty good overall. Friday, we got a little sloppy at times in the second period, which allowed [Drayton Valley] to climb back in the game, but Saturday was a complete sixty-minute effort. We were extremely happy the way the boys played, it was an impressive opening weekend. Hopefully we can build on that.” Said Crusaders Head Coach Adam Manah.
Much of the offense, and what could be the case all year, came from the line of Ty Readman, Brandon Wallis and Merritt Oszytko. The trio combined for a total of 15 points in the home and home against the Thunder.
“We put them together in the last period of the last exhibition game, they have not disappointed since. If they are creating as many scoring chances as they have, that will create success for us. Very, very good weekend for them.” Noted Manah.
It was a bit of a given that Readman and Oszytko would produce points this season, but there was uncertainty in Wallis’ ability to keep up with his linemates. And according to Readman, and others, Wallis has vindicated that uncertainty.
“He looks a lot more confident when he has the puck and making plays. His skill sets are better, he’s skating faster and things like that, but the confidence coming into his second season is huge. It was big for me and it looks like it will be a big factor in Brandon’s game this year.” Says Readman.
For Readman, it was a special weekend not only on the ice, but off it, as he committed to Northern Michigan of the NCAA.
One of the AJHL’s most sought after recruits is excited for the next level.
“It was a great visit, things were moving pretty fast. The first time I talked with them was just near the end of the pre season, they mentioned they were interested, I wanted to go down [to Marquette, MI], meet the coach and see the program. I was there for two & a half days and it was amazing. The way the program is going and the confidence that was shown in me moving forward, it felt comfortable. It felt like the right decision so I pulled the trigger.” Explained Readman.
“I couldn’t be happier.”
Readman’s play also earned him Player of the Week honors in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The third year veteran is hoping the early success can continue and keep him in the running for a league scoring title.
“It’s a goal of mine this year. Why would you want to be second, third or fourth and so on, if I can have a great season and lead the league, it’s going to be something I’m striving for. If it happens, it happens. The main thing for me is getting our team to the playoffs and if that leads to something individually, perfect!” Added Readman.
Readman is tied with five others at the top of the leaderboard with six points.
It will be tough to continue the output offensively this week as the Crusaders face a formidable opponent in the Camrose Kodiaks.
“They look like they are fast. They can skate well and move the puck. We are going to have to be ready to skate, we like that matchup. It should be a real good test for us, we are looking forward to it.” Said Manah.
The Kodiaks have started the season 1-0-1 as they took out the Drumheller Dragons 5-2 on the road Friday night and fell 3-2 in overtime to the very same Dragons on Saturday evening.
Camrose is looking to improve on their fifth place finish from last season and challenge the Brooks Bandits at the top of the Viterra South Division. GM and Head Coach Boris Rybalka added some veteran experience from all over Western Canada this off season, which included former Crusader Matt Dykstra to complete the Tanner Younghans trade from last year.
“You got to play him physical. He’s a big solid kid, he can skate well and has a knack for the net. We got to have stick on puck and lean on him making life difficult.” Says Manah on the former Crusader.
For some of the Crusader veterans, like Readman, it will be different to line up against Dykstra.
“He’s a great player and he’ll benefit the Kodiaks. It will be a bit weird, I’ve seen a picture of him with the Camrose logo on. It will be good to see him again but once it’s game time, it’s down to business.” Said Readman on his teammate of two seasons.
No matter who the Crusaders are lining up against, the Kodiaks will provide a tougher test for the young Sherwood Park squad. It will also be interesting to see how the game plays out as the two teams have had the odd, odd game.
Case in point, last season.
In Camrose, it was a 9-7 final that went back and forth all night long. In the return match months later, a much tighter game saw the Kodiaks score on their own goal as they pressed late in the third period of a 2-1 Crusader lead. Sherwood Park Goaltender Jake Morrissey was credited with the empty net goal that saw the Crusaders win 3-1.
The players certainly won’t have past situations on their mind to start with.
“I don’t know if you think about it, but when something has happened you remember all the other things that have happened, so you’re not as surprised. If anything happens, hopefully it benefits us.” Notes Readman.
An interesting factor will be the start time, high noon.
The Sherwood Park Arena will be filled with students of schools from around the area taking in some AJHL action.
How will this affect either team? Will one be taken to school? We will wait and see when the bell rings…or the whistle of the referee to signal the opening puck drop.
-Story By Taylor Medak