This could be a golden year for the Sherwood Park Crusaders, and even those outside the league are taking notice.
The World Junior A Canada West selection camp was held at the end of October, with five Crusaders being invited out and one making the team.
Local players Andrew Taverner, Marshall Donald, Josh Healey, Matt Tomkins and Bowen Croft all received invitations to the tryout camp, which saw players participate from five Junior A leagues across Western Canada.
Healey was the only one to make the final cut, and is playing in the international tournament that started on Monday, Nov. 5 and runs until Nov. 11.
“I think he exerts a role that, on our team, he’s one of our best defencemen and plays in all situations, but at the pinnacle of it all, he fits a role where he’s a real tough defender to play against — he skates well, he’s physical — and he’s willing to accept the role,” Crusader head coach and general manager Tim Fragle said of Healey. “I think on that team, they basically kind of said to him ‘Hey, you do all of the things that we like.’ He had a very strong camp from what I’m hearing, and he was rewarded accordingly.”
Of the five that were invited to try out, only three could actually attend the camp, as Tomkins and Croft are both out with long-running injuries.
“They couldn’t participate because they were injured. Matt’s been hurt for over a month now, and he thought he’d be ready for the camp, but he wasn’t,” Fragle said. “And Bowen’s been out for three weeks now, too, with an ankle injury, and he, too, thought he’d be able to compete at the camp, but he wasn’t ready to go.”
The selection camp pulled only 19 players from the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s 16 teams, making a strong showing for the Cru in having five invited out.
“It’s actually unbelievable to have five players invited off our team,” Fragle said. “I think, a little bit, because we have a young team again and a lot of 18 year olds on our team, the age category for the World Junior A kind of suits our team, so that was part of it. But the other part of it is that we have some good skill and appealing players. There were around 50-plus players invited from four different leagues, and we had five players invited from just our team, so that was definitely something to be excited about.”