Crusaders Go Up Against Top in the Nation

The Sherwood Park Crusaders are looking to go on yet another winning streak this young AJHL season as they host the Fort McMurray Oil Barons Friday night at the Sherwood Park Arena.  After snapping their 3 game losing streak this past Sunday with a 5-2 win over the Lloydminster Bobcats, the Cru will look to continue their solid play from Sunday.

“I liked about 50 mins of that game. Still think Powerplay needs to be better although we were 3 for 10. I thoughts we had good puck possession all game.”  Says Head Coach and GM Tim Fragle on Sunday’s victory.

The Cru are tied for most goals scored on the Powerplay, with Fort McMurray, but have only netted a 18.1% conversion rate.

The undefeated Oil Barons come into Friday’s game with their franchise record start at 12-0, which is 3rd best all time in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

“They are going to test our complete game.  They have depth at all positions.  3 good offensive lines and a very active defense. Their puck support in 3 zones is good, especially on the attack.”  Fragle speaks of his Friday opponent.

The Oil Barons are led offensively by AJHL veteran Ryan Bloom and Forward Kevin Miller who have 16 and 15 points respectively and are also 7, 8 in scoring in the AJHL.  Shutting those two down will be key.

“We need to take away time and space on all their skilled players, limit our mistakes andbe physical but discipline.”  Fragle states the keys to the game.

The Oil Barons enter Friday’s contest as the number 1 ranked team in the entire Canadian Junior Hockey League.  The Crusaders are no stranger to facing the number 1 team in the country, as last year, when the Brooks Bandits came to town, were ranked number 1 in the CJHL.  Crusaders won that game in Overtime, upsetting the Bandits.

Coincidently, that’s who will be the Crusaders opponent Saturday night at the Sherwood Park Arena.

The number 3 ranked team in the nation and the defending National Champion will be looking for their first win in Sherwood Park in over 6 years.

You might think it’s the schedule of death this weekend for the Cru, going up against the 1 and 3 ranked teams nationally.  But Fragle is quick to dismiss that this weekend will be the toughest all season.

“It’s a measuring stick weekend for us.  But it’s early so I’m going to say no on it being the toughest, we will have many big weekends ahead of us.”

After a hiccup in their third game of the season losing to Okotoks, the Bandits haven’t looked back winning 8 straight.  They are led offensively by Alaska-Anchorage commit Jake Larson with 14 points while the ever dangerous Madison Smiley on the back end with 7 points.

Fragle expects Saturday’s opponent to be much similar as Friday’s will be.

“[Brooks] will be similar to Fort McMurray.  The Bandits can beat you many different ways.”

A key for the Crusaders weekend will be the play of Forward Andrew Taverner.  The Quinnipiac recruit is riding a 5 game point streak and leads the Crusaders in scoring with 7 goals and 10 assists.

The Cru will also welcome a new face to the organization, as they have acquired ’95 born Defenseman Anthony Kapelke from the Drayton Valley Thunder in exchange for ’96 born Defenseman Connor Vermeulen.  In 4 games with the Cru, Vermeulen had 2 assists and 4 penalty minutes.

Kapelke brings more veteran presence to the Crusader blue line, and has put up a goal and 2 assists in 10 games with the Thunder this year, as well as 25 minutes in penalties.

“We expect Kapelke to provide valuable minutes and a bring physical dimension to our defense.”  Fragle spoke of his new acquisition.

The Crusaders have also learned that Forward Fraser Bulbuc has been reassigned to the club.  The Sherwood Park native spent the begging of this year and the final part of last season with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League.  The ’95 born played 44 games with the Cru last season, picking up 7 points and 127 penalty minutes.  Bulbuc had only played one game for the Americans this season.

For tickets to Friday and Saturday’s games please call the Crusader Office at 780-417-1175 or purchase tickets at the door inside the Sherwood Park Arena.  Both game times are 7pm.