There may be no snow on the ground or the weather being in the negatives but it might feel like Christmas to some people in Sherwood Park in the middle of August.
For 50 plus players, the hockey season starts Tuesday as the Sherwood Park Crusaders being their journey in the 2014-2015 AJHL season. Many players will look to impress the Crusaders coaching staff in the next few weeks to vie for a spot on the Junior A hockey club.
“We are excited to get camp going. It looks like it will be a very competitive camp at all positions, we do return 14 players but we do have a strong group of recruits that we expect to push for spots.” Says Crusaders GM and Head Coach Tim Fragle, who is entering his 5th year at the helm.
A bulk of the returning players come on the backend and in goal. Veteran Dane Phaneuf will lead an experience defensive core with the likes of 2nd year Crusaders David Randall, Chase Torontow and Brett Magee. Junior A journey man Dustin Cave, who was acquired by the Cru at last year’s deadline, returns as well.
Tommy Nixon and Zac Klassen are expected to return in the crease for the Crusaders. Nixon will look to improve on a stellar Rookie season after posting 21 wins, which was 2nd amongst rookie Goaltenders and backstopping the Crusaders to a win from the North Division Final.
Along with Nixon part of the Playoff success was thanks some of the returning Forwards. Arthur Gordon and Ryan Kruper chipped in big last Post Season and hope to continue that success into a more expanded roll with the departure of the top 5 scoring Forwards from 2013-14, including 2 of the top 4 in the AJHL and the top goal scorer in the entire league in Nicholas Jones as well.
The Crusaders will also use 6 Exhibition games along with training camp to determine the opening day roster on September 5th. Unfortunately the Crusaders will not be able to get a taste of home ice before the home opener on September 12th as they will be playing their Home Exhibition dates at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park and at a neutral site in Camrose, AB. This is due to the Canada 55 plus Games in Strathcona County.
“We do host 2 pre-season games at Millennium place this year due to the 55 games and we look forward to playing at this venue.” Fragle says.
As mentioned, the Crusaders play 1 other Exhibition as the Home team, that being at the Tournament at Edgeworth Centre hosted by the Camrose Kodiaks. The Crusaders will get a chance to take on Spruce Grove, Camrose and Drayton Valley in Central Alberta.
“The Camrose tournament will be good for us as we plan to have a look at many players during the 3 games as well as its good to play against 3 good programs.” Fragle added.
That will all lead up to the AJHL Season opener on September 5th in Lloydminster. The Crusaders Main Camp is open to the public, if you’d like to attend, click here for skate times. The Crusaders will be holding their Main Camp at the Sherwood Park and Shell Arenas. For more information on Main Camp and the Exhibition Games, please call the Crusaders Office at 780-417-1175.
Story by Taylor Medak