Game Recap: Bucks 4, Smoke Eaters 3 (Jan. 1, 2022)

Cranbrook Bucks Photo

The Cranbrook Bucks open 2022 with a win against their biggest rivals — again.

Cranbrook beat the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday night, marking the fourth straight win against their cross-Kootenay foes.

Trail seemed to flip the script on the Bucks early in this one, as it was the Smoke Eaters that aggressively asserted their gameplan in the opening minutes.

They were quick, physical, and didn’t allow Cranbrook to settle in and find their puck possession game.

Trail’s fast start afforded them an early lead, as it took just 1:50 for Teddy Lagerback to open the scoring, from Coalson Wolford and Ridge Dawson.

Cranbrook responded quickly however, as just 55 seconds later, Bucks defenseman Declan Ride feathered a well-placed wrist shot to the back door, and Hayden Gelbard was there to redirect it in to tie the game up 1-1.

The teams went back-and-forth in a fast, emotional period that stayed 1-1 until the 17:22 mark when Trail’s Charlie Strobel buried one. The assists went to Connor Michaud, and Dawson who picked up his second helper of the period.

Following the goal, the Smoke Eaters were assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty, putting the Bucks on the powerplay and giving them another chance to quickly strike back.

On the ensuing PP, Bucks forward Noah Quinn tipped home a Rhys Bentham point shot to tie the game up 2-2 at 18:10 of the first.

There would be more entries on the scoresheet to come before the opening 20 minutes came to a close, as a Cranbrook penalty gave Trail a late PP opportunity.

The Smoke Eaters would take advantage as captain Wolford picked up his second point of the night with a goal, assisted by Brady Hunter and Evan Bushy at 19:06 to give Trail a 3-2 lead into the first intermission.

The second stanza was as quick and heated as the first, but the two teams settled in as far as giving up scoring chances.

There were another four penalties called in the middle frame, after five in the opening period, but neither team was able to capitalize in the second.

The evenly matched, scoreless period saw each team team put 12 shots on net, and we went into the second intermission with Trail still leading 3-2.

Despite taking an early penalty, the Bucks got off to a quick start in the third period.

At 3:37 of the final frame, Quinn ripped a wrist shot upstairs on Trail goalie Evan Fradette. The shorthanded goal, on which Tyson Dyck got his second assist of the night, tied the game up 3-3.

The fast-paced action kept up through the final 20 minutes, with both teams getting more chances to score.

It would be the visitors that found a goal in the back half of the third period to break the tie.

Forward Johnny Johnson got the last touch on the Bucks second PP goal of night night, from Cole Assailly and Liam Hansson, to put Cranbrook up 4-3 with 8:31 on the clock.

From there, the Bucks relied on strong team defense and good goaltending from Evan Gartner, who stopped 33 of 36 shots on the night.

Cranbrook outshot Trail 16-13 in the third, outscored them 2-0, and hung on for the 4-3 win.

The Bucks fourth straight win over Trail improves their record to 5-2-1 against the close rivals on the season, with one more head-to-head matchup coming in Cranbrook on Jan. 15.

The win also extends the Bucks franchise-best win streak to five games, and improves their record to 15-10-1 on the season.

The game recap from the Bucks website came be found here, and the official boxscore is here.

Cranbrook is back in action on Sunday afternoon against the struggling Centennials at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in Merritt.

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