Game Recap: Airey’s shutout backs offensive explosion in Bucks preseason finale

📸: Tim Matwey

One night after a convincing Bucks’ victory in Trail on Friday, Cranbrook hosted the Smoke Eaters in the second of back-to-back games on Saturday night.

The first period saw Cranbrook record the game’s first seven shots on goal, before Trail had a late surge of its own in what turned out to be a fairly evenly played opening frame.

Unlike the frantic pace from the preceding night’s contest, Saturday’s tilt saw no scoring in the first 20 minutes.

The Smoke Eaters built on their first period momentum and came out hard in the second, testing Nathan Airey’s sharpness in the Cranbrook crease.

The third-year tendy was up to the task long enough to keep his team on even terms until they were benefitted by a Trail penalty.

With the man-advantage helping turn the tides in the home side’s favour, it was the captain that came through for the game’s first tally.

Following a face-off win by Jarrod Smith and a short pass from Bauer Morrissey, Rhys Bentham hammered the puck into the back of the net.

The captain’s goal at 5:23 gave the Bucks a 1-0 lead, and they wouldn’t look back.

Just past the midway point of the second period, Carter Schmidt was able to bury a rebound off a shot from the point.

Schmidt’s tally at 10:34 gave the Bucks a 2-0 lead, and it would take less than two minutes for Cranbrook to extend that lead even further.

After a quick pass up-ice from defender Carsyn Good, Kellan Hjartarson was able to sneak one through the Trail tendy at 12:04 to make it 3-0 Bucks.

In just the blink of an eye, a couple of Cranbrook veterans were able to connect and grow the lead even larger.

Noah Quinn was able to win the face-off back to Bentham before going to the net and tipping the captain’s point shot in.

Quinn’s fourth goal in four preseason games made it 4-0 for the Bucks at 12:16 of the middle frame.

It wouldn’t take much more than a minute for Cranbrook to put the game away on a quick break up the ice.

A pretty passing play was finished by Ethan Sundar for his third tally in two games with the Bucks.

The goal was assisted by Jack Silich and Cooper Boulanger at 13:40, and made it 5-0 for the home team.

After the five-goal offensive explosion in a period that saw Cranbrook outshoot the visitors by a 16-8 margin, the Bucks took a comfortable lead into the intermission.

Trail came out looking to get on the board in the third, but Cranbrook was able to resist, with Airey remaining perfect when tested.

After a fairly low-event, evenly played third period, the Bucks held on for the 5-0 victory.

Five different goal scorers and a 24-save shutout for Airey in the Cranbrook net proved to be too much for the Smoke Eaters, who didn’t have an answer in a game that got away from them in the second period.

The Bucks have now won seven consecutive contests against their Kootenay rivals dating back to last season, including the two straight preseason wins this past weekend.

The games count for real starting this upcoming Friday, as Cranbrook kicks off the regular season on the road with a game in Merritt, followed by a visit to Penticton on Saturday.

The game recap from the Bucks website can be found here, and the game highlights can be seen below courtesy of the team’s YouTube channel.

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