The Cranbrook Bucks are in Prince George tonight to take on the Spruce Kings in game five of their Interior Conference first round best-of-seven series.
The Rolling Mix Concrete Arena in BC’s Northern Capital has not been kind to the Bucks, who lost games one and two by identical 4-1 scores.
They managed just two goals in the first two games as Spruce Kings goalie Aaron Trotter seemed poised to steal the series himself.
Cranbrook failed to capitalize on any of its six powerplay opportunities during the first two games in Prince George, while yielding a pair of goals against in 10 Spruce Kings powerplay chances.
The Bucks also lost a pair of key cogs in forwards Noah Quinn and Liam Hansson who were ejected from game one and subsequently suspended two games each.
The series shifted to Cranbrook with the Bucks barely hanging on, but that’s when everything changed.
On their home ice in front of a supportive crowd in game three, it took just 72 seconds for the Bucks to score the first goal of the contest.
By the midway point of game three, Cranbrook was in complete control of the contest, having a 3-0 lead that would be the eventual final score.
The Bucks first-ever playoff victory went hand-in-hand with goaltender Nathan Airey earning not only first playoff win — but shutout as well.
Game four the next night got off to a similar start, with Cranbrook jumping out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals 36 seconds apart.
The Bucks would then face some adversity in game four, as they saw Prince George pull even at 2-2 on a pair of goals just seven seconds apart in the opening minute of period two.
After retaking the lead, Cranbrook once again had the Spruce Kings get it back to even at 3-3.
The Bucks would eventually win by a 5-3 score on a night which they never trailed, evening the series up 2-2 after the first four games.
The series now heads back to Prince George for game five with a much different feel to it than when the two teams made the trip south for games three and four.
A win tonight for Cranbrook would present an opportunity to win the series at home in game six before what promises to be a raucous crowd on Saturday night.
A loss tonight, and the Bucks would be playing for their season in a do-or-die situation with all of Cranbrook behind them.
Either way, they are set for game five in a rink that has not been homey to them this season — but they will be much more prepared for it tonight than when they played their first-ever playoff game last Friday.