The Cranbrook Bucks travelled to Trail on Friday night to battle their cross-Kootenay rival Smoke Eaters, and they couldn’t have asked for a better performance on the road.
The Bucks established their aggressive, fast-paced forecheck game early and didn’t allow the Smoke Eaters to settle into the game on their home ice. Although they failed to capitalize on a pair of powerplays and eventually surrendered the game’s first goal, the Bucks carried much of the edge in play and outshot Trail 11-6 in the opening 20 minutes.
Cranbrook entered the second period down 1-0, but an offensive explosion in the middle frame saw the Bucks fire 15 more shots on the Smoke Eaters net and score four times.
Johnny Johnson and Kellan Hjartarson tallied on the powerplay in the first half of the period, before Hjartarson and AJ Vasko added goals late in the second stanza to put the Bucks up 4-2 through 40 minutes.
Not only did the Bucks have the lead on the scoreboard, but their 26-12 shots advantage through two periods suggested they had an edge in play as well.
You can bet both teams talked about getting off to a good start to the third period during the intermission, with the visitors holding a two-goal lead.
It was the visiting Bucks that got off to that quick start, as it took just 18 seconds for Hayden Gelbard to find the back of the net in the final frame to put Cranbrook up 5-2.
The Smoke Eaters would tally just past the six minute mark of the period, but the Bucks kept up the pressure and hung on for the 5-3 win.
Cranbrook outshot Tail 21-7 in the final 20 minutes to finish the game with a 47-19 edge, marking the third-most shots in a game for the Bucks this season.
While Trail likely feels that the momentum of the game was contributed to by some penalty calls they didn’t necessarily agree with, the Bucks strong play on the road certainly led to some frustration from the Smoke Eaters and some undisciplined infractions.
Full credit to the road team though as a complete 60-minute effort by the Bucks ended their three-game losing streak against Trail, and started a winning streak of their own to two-straight overall.