Bucks begin big three-game road trip in Merritt

📸: Cranbrook Bucks

The Cranbrook Bucks are on the road this weekend, playing three games in three days — and in three different cities.

The trip kicks off tonight in Merritt against the Centennials, before visits to the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday and the Penticton Vees on Sunday.

Tonight’s game is the third of five meetings between Cranbrook and Merritt, with the Bucks taking three of a possible four points from the Cents so far this season;

Five games (1-0-1)

The Bucks come into tonight’s game sitting fifth in the Interior Conference with a 20-16-4 record, and are 10-10-1 on the road.

Merritt occupies the basement of the BC Hockey League with a 2-34-3 record, and a 2-17-2 mark on home ice.

In the latest episode of the Bucks Network Podcast, Cranbrook local Quaid Anderson said the team is focused on redemption after losing their previous game in Merritt this season.

“Specially because we lost to them the last time, we want to go in and kind of redeem ourselves, so really focused on everything we need to do to beat them,” Anderson said.

“Both powerplay and penalty kill, structure, everything focusing around them — and then it’s just hard work,” he added.

The Bucks will then head to West Kelowna on Saturday to face the Warriors for the sixth and final time during the regular season.

The Warriors are in fourth place in the Interior with a 25-13-1 record, and are 14-5-1 at home.

Cranbrook is 3-2-0 in the first five games against the Warriors, including taking two of three at Royal LePage Place so far in their season series;

Six games (3-2-0)

Anderson said on the podcast that he enjoys playing the Warriors on the road, and knows they will get a good effort from them.

“I really like West Kelowna’s arena, and they’re always a good team to play against. They were the first new team other than Penticton and Trail that we played this season, so obviously (we have) a rivalry with them,” he said.

“I really like playing in their arena, I kind of like their atmosphere there — I just find it’s really fun. Playing them is always a fun, physical, competitive game, but then there’s also a lot of skill, I feel, a lot of speed and skill with them.”

The Bucks will then conclude their trip against the Vees on Sunday afternoon in Penticton.

The Vees are the number one team in the BCHL with a 31-6-2 record, and are 16-1-1 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Cranbrook is 1-11-0 all-time against Penticton, after going 1-9-0 in 10 meetings with the Vees in the Penticton Pod last season, and are 0-2-0 against them so far this season;

Five games (0-2-0)

Despite Penticton’s dominance over the Bucks, Anderson said he’s most looking forward to playing the Vees on the trip.

“It’s always nice to go back to where the pod was, and they’re a top team to play against. We have some bad blood with them right now with losing the last two times we played them (this season), so we’re definitely going in looking for a win — it’s always a fun trip to go to Penticton.”

He added that fatigue will be a factor as both teams will be playing their third game in three days.

“Both sides are definitely going to be tired, so there’s going to be a lot of fatigue at play. I don’t think it’s going to be as much skill — it’s going to be more hard work, focusing on the minor details, and just grinding away to get a couple goals, (and maybe) an early lead.”

It’s a big trip for the Bucks, who are 1-2-2 in their last five games and 3-5-2 in the last 10, but remain right in the middle of the Interior Conference playoff race.

The trip will clearly get tougher as it goes on, starting against the last place team in the league, and wrapping up against the team at the top of the standings.

With the middle game of the trip being against the team directly ahead of them in the standings, the Bucks will definitely be looking to make up some ground this weekend.

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