Saturday marks the 35th time the Sherwood Park Crusaders will open up training camp, and even though the Cru are one of the oldest franchises in the 50 year old league, the 2013-14 edition will have a touch of youth. And to put all the pieces together for the upcoming campaign, is Crusader GM and Head Coach, Tim Fragle.
“It’s an exciting time to get back at it. We have huge turnover at key positions but are excited with are returning core and our new recruits.” Says Fragle who will begin his 4th year as GM and Head Coach.
The Cru are coming off a 2nd round exit at the hands of the Spruce Grove Saints in last years playoffs. Sherwood Park has 12 returning players from last seasons 7th place team, a bulk of them at the Forward position.
“We feel strong at center and have good combination of skill sets returning up front.”
Entering his 4th year in the AJHL, all in Sherwood Park, Dillon Massie leads a crop of Forwards that will be relied on heavily to put the puck in the net. Andrew Taverner who battled injuries late last season will look to leave his mark in the AJHL and with the Crusaders before heading to Quinnipiac University in 2014. 2nd years Forwards such as, Nick Jones, Ryan Kruper, Arthur Gordan, Adam Moghrabi will to make large strides after their rookie seasons. Another 2nd year player looking to make a strong impact is Sean MacTavish. Mac T had an excellent rookie season that included playing in the CJHL Top Prospect Game and being named to the AJHL’s All-Rookie team.
As for defense?
“We have good returing mixture on defense, with the likes of [Marshall] Dondald, [Dane] Phaneuf and [Cody] Bardock.” Fragle spoke of his returning Defensemen.
The most interesting battle, like most hockey teams when they lose their starting goalie, will be in net. Matt Tomkins, the Crusader starter from the past 2 seasons, is off to Ohio State and leaves the crease for a wide open taking. Tomkins’ back-up, Jacob Suppes, returns to vie for the starting job. Suppes saw plenty action early in the 2012-13 season when Tomkins was out 6 weeks with an injury. With the off-season addition of former Ft. McMurray Oil Baron Ethan Wood and local Midget AAA recruits, Fragle feels his team is in a good spot when it comes to the Goaltending position heading into training camp.
“We are excited to see how the competition in net plays out. We feel we have depth at this position.”
With the above said spots spoken for, there are holes to fill in a vacant line up. That is where the youth will come in.
“We have young players both on defense and forward that we will be watching closely as to see who is the most ready to play at the Junior A level.” Fragle said
Training camp will open on Saturday morning with players split between 4 teams. Each team will practice once and scrimmage once Saturday evening. Sunday will consist of 2 scrimmages in the morning and 2 in the evening.
Fragle is looking at 3 particular areas for all players at opening weekend of camp.
“ High Compete level, High Fitness Level and commitment to playing a complete game.”
The scrimmage portion of training camp wraps up Tuesday the 20th before the Crusaders begin their 6 pre-season/exhibition schedule, with an Inter-Squad game in the afternoon. The Cru kickoff the pre-season with a game in Bonnyvile versus the Pontiacs.
Coach Fragle touches on what kind of lineups we will see during the pre-season schedule.
“You will see a younger line-up in games 1 to 3 and then 4 to 6 we will get down to numbers to prepare for the season.”
Fragle was asked one thing he is looking forward to for the 2013-14 regular season.
“How are returning core of players handles the challenge of being counted on to lead this young team.”
That answer begins to take form when the Crusaders officially begin their 35th season Friday September 6th in Whitecourt.
For a complete look at the Training Camp and Exhibition Schedule, click here.