Frias scores twice in Bucks 5-2 win over Merritt

📸: Martin Ross / Cranbrook Bucks

The Cranbrook Bucks and Merritt Centennials met on Friday night for the second time this season, and first at Western Financial Place in Cranbrook.

The Bucks took the lone previous matchup so far this year with a 5-2 win on opening night in Merritt, which pushed their win-streak against the Centennials to four straight games.

Back in front of a home crowd on Friday, Cranbrook used a four-goal first period to extend its streak against Merritt.

Donovan Frias opened the scoring with his seventh of the season at 4:23 of the first period when he buried a rebound into the Centennials’ net.

His linemates Cooper Boulanger and Nick Peluso contributed assists on the goal that gave the Bucks an early 1-0 lead.

Cranbrook would get a couple of unassisted tallies from Noah Quinn at 10:33 and Peluso at 15:30 of the first to extend its lead to 3-0.

Before the first intermission, the Bucks leading-scorer and newly named BC Hockey League All-Star Jack Silich tallied his 13th of the season from Bauer Morrissey at 18:39 of the opening frame.

Cranbrook outshot Merritt 20-8 in the first and took a 4-0 lead to the dressing room.

The Centennials made a goaltending change to start the second period, as Johnny Hicks led his team out for the middle frame replacing Connor Sullivan who made 16 saves on 20 shots in the opening 20 minutes.

Merritt was able to get on the board in the second on a Walker Erickson powerplay goal at 2:38, and then cut the lead in half thanks to Connor Farren at 11:30 of the middle frame.

The Bucks outshot the Centennials 12-11 in the second stanza and escaped with a 4-2 lead.

After a strong middle period from Merritt to get back in the game, Cranbrook was able to find an extra step in the third period, outshooting the Cents 12-8 in the final 20 minutes.

The Bucks also scored the only goal of the third, when Donovan Frias found an empty Merritt net for an unassisted tally at 19:25 to put the game away.

Cranbrook outshot Merritt 44-27 on the night and skated away with a 5-2 win on home ice.

The Bucks have now taken five straight head-to-head decisions against the Centennials dating back to last season, and improve to 5-1-0 in games played at Western Financial Place in the current campaign.

They’ve now won three straight games and four of their last five overall, while their record now sits at 11-6-1 on the season.

Cranbrook’s win coupled with a Salmon Arm loss on Friday night caused the Bucks to leapfrog the Silverbacks for fourth-place in the Interior Conference.

Donovan Frias was the game’s first star after his two-goal performance, extending his point-streak to five games — in which he has five goals and an assist.

Boulanger was named third star on a night in which he tallied an assist and played one of his best games in a Bucks uniform.

Peluso’s one goal and one assist effort and Silich’s goal gives them each four points in their past three games.

Quinn’s goal on Friday gives him four tallies in the past two contests.

Nathan Airey stopped 25 of Merritt’s 27 shots in the game for the win, improving to 8-4-0 on the season with a 2.67 goals-against-average and a .921 save-percentage.

Cranbrook is back in action on Saturday night when they welcome the Wenatchee Wild to town for the second time this season.

The boxscore from Friday’s game can be viewed here from the BCHL website, while a game recap from the Bucks website is here.

The game highlights can also be viewed below courtesy of Cranbrook’s YouTube channel.

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