The Cranbrook Bucks enjoyed a successful teddy bear toss night at Western Financial Place on Saturday, while extending their winning streak to three games.
The Bucks welcome their cross-Kootenay rival Smoke Eaters to Cranbrook after beating them in their barn one night earlier.
Much like they did on Friday night, the Bucks established their speed and forecheck game to give themselves an early edge in play, but it was Trail that got on the board first.
Following an interference penalty to Cranbrook forward Hayden Gelbard, the Smoke Eaters converted on the powerplay to take a 1-0 lead.
Connor Michaud buried a rebound off the end boards following a Quinn Disher shot that deflected wide of the net just three and a half minutes in to give Trail the lead.
That goal was the only scoring in the opening 20 minutes, in which Cranbrook outshot the Smoke Eaters 13-5.
Trail would double its lead on another power play marker just nine seconds into the middle frame.
Bucks goalie Nathan Airey kicked out a shot from Smoke Eaters sniper Teddy Lagerback, but another sharp shooter in Zach Michaelis was there to bury the rebound and make it 2-0.
That lead was very short lived, however, as a shot from Bucks defenseman Cole Assailly just 36 seconds later eluded Trail goaltender Evan Fradette to put Cranbrook on the board and trigger the first teddy bear toss in Bucks franchise history.
Two goals in the first 45 seconds of the middle stanza made it a 2-1 game, and the Bucks continued to press after getting their first goal of the night. They weren’t able to pull even, however, before Trail went back up by two.
Around the midway point of the game, Michaelis found defenseman Cameron Moger who trotted in from the point and beat Airey up high to put the Smoke Eaters up 3-1.
Trail was nearly able to get through 40 minutes up by a pair, but a defensive breakdown allowed Cranbrook’s top line an opportunity.
After Noah Quinn had his initial shot stopped, he claimed the rebound and found Tyson Dyck all alone in the slot. Dyck hammered it home to pull the Bucks within a goal with 37 seconds on the clock in the middle frame.
Cranbrook entered the second intermission down 3-2 despite being the better team and holding a 30-15 advantage in the shots count through two periods.
Trail entered the final frame with the lead, playing a decent road game and riding a strong effort from their goaltender Fradette.
They could only outlast the surging Bucks for so long, however, before Cranbrook’s leading scorer took the game over and set up the tying goal.
Dyck seemed to mesmerize the Smoke Eaters defence by attempting a “Michigan” style goal, before picking up his own rebound, making a few moves and finding Quinn all alone at the back door to tie the game.
The Bucks kept up the pressure and it wasn’t long before assistant captain Brendan Rogers fired home the go-ahead goal making it 4-3 Cranbrook.
The home team kept up the pace until the final minutes keeping the Smoke Eaters from getting many chances to even the score.
As the game came to a close, Cranbrook put up a defensive wall that consisted of numerous shot blocks and big saves from Airey to seal the win.
It certainly wasn’t an easy win, but it was another convincing effort for the Bucks to extended their win streak to three games.
The win also snapped a four-game home losing streak, with two of the previous losses coming against the Smoke Eaters. Cranbrook and Trail have now split the first six games of their season series this year.
The win also brought the Bucks back to even at 4-4-0 through their first eight games of December. When they host Trail on New Year’s Eve, the Bucks will try to finish above .500 for the third straight month to start their first full BCHL season.