The Cranbrook Bucks begin exhibition play this upcoming weekend, kicking things off against the defending national Jr A champion Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
The Bucks will head east and open their preseason schedule in Brooks at 7:00pm on Saturday, Sept. 10, before a date with the Okotoks Oilers on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 2:30pm.
Brooks is coming off another spectacular season, which included being AJHL regular season champions and also finishing atop the entire Canadian Junior Hockey League with a 52-6-3 record during the 2021-22 campaign.
The Bandits then went 12-1-0 in the AJHL playoffs to punch their ticket to the Centennial Cup tournament. Brooks was a perfect 6-0-0 at the national championship, outscoring opponents 44-10 through six contests.
When the Bucks travel to Okotoks the following day for an afternoon matinee, they will see a familiar face in forward Zeth Kindrachuk. The 20-year-old Calgary, AB product was traded to the Oilers earlier this summer.
Following the quick trip to Alberta, Cranbrook will wrap up its preseason against a very familiar opponent. The Bucks will play back-to-back games against the Trail Smoke Eaters, starting in Trail on Friday, Sept. 16 before concluding exhibition play by hosting the Smoke Eaters one night later.
Cranbrook and Trail have played 19 head-to-head matchups during the past two regular seasons, with an additional 12 meetings in exhibition play, so there are no secrets when it comes to facing their cross-Kootenay counterparts.
Following this year’s preseason home-and-home series, the clubs will have to wait a couple of weeks for their first matchup of the regular season, which will feature back-to-back games in each building on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
The Bucks have seen a little bit of everything in their first two BCHL seasons, but a preseason opening against the defending national champions and closing against their closest rivals seems like the perfect way to prepare for their third campaign in the league.