Bucks, Wild split first two games of series in Cranbrook

📸: Martin Ross / Cranbrook Bucks

The Cranbrook Bucks and Wenatchee Wild opened their best-of-seven first round BC Hockey League playoff series this past weekend in Cranbrook, and both teams came away with a win before the scene shifts down to Wenatchee.

Game one on Friday night started as expected, with the visiting Wild coming out hard trying to knock the second-seeded Bucks off their game. Neither team found the scoresheet in an emotional opening 20 minutes, despite scoring chances on both sides and an unsuccessful penalty-shot attempt by Cranbrook’s Blake Cotton.

The two teams seemed to settle down in the second period and the focus turned to playing hockey, which is when the Bucks started to separate themselves from Wenatchee.

Cranbrook opened the scoring nearly five minutes into the middle frame on a goal from defenseman Carsyn Good, set up nicely by forwards Kellan Hjartarson and Noah Quinn.

The Wild answered nine minutes later on a rush up the ice that saw Parker Murray score with assists to his line-mates Ean Somoza and Garrett Szydlowski to even the score at 1-1.

The game wouldn’t stay tied for long, as just over a minute later Bucks’ forward Cooper Boulanger picked the top corner from the face-off dot to the left of Wenatchee goalie Andy Vlaha. Boulanger’s tally was assisted by Jaden Fodchuk and put the Bucks up 2-1 late in the second.

Cranbrook would quickly add another goal on an unassisted marker by Donovan Frias following a turnover high in the Wild defensive zone. All tolled, three tallies in a 2:22 span were part of a four-goal middle frame that sent the Bucks to the second intermission with a 3-1 lead.

The third period featured a pair potential goals being reviewed — one for each team — but both were ultimately deemed to not count. After a scoreless final frame, Cranbrook held on for the 3-1 win on home ice.

Boulanger and Frias were given the game’s first and second star honours respectively, while Bucks goalie Nathan Airey was named third star after stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced.

Highlights of Game 1

Saturday night’s game two took on a totally different tone, almost from the outset. Wild forward, captain, and Wenatchee product Cade Littler found the back of the net passed the four-minute mark with an unassisted tally to open the scoring for the visitors.

Quinn appeared to have found an equalizer for Cranbrook around the midway point of the opening period, but another video review determined Vlaha kept the puck out of the net with a highlight reel glove save.

Just as it seemed the Bucks were gaining some traction early in the second period, Szydlowski was able to redirect a shot from the blueline past Airey for his second point of the series, giving the Wild a 2-0 lead.

Wenatchee would add three more goals in the third, with Micah Berger scoring his first of the series, while Littler and Murray each added their second in a 5-0 win for the Wild.

Vlaha stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout earning himself first star honours, while Littler was the second star after his two-goal performance. Quinn was named the third star for his efforts in the Cranbrook loss.

Highlights of Game 2

The series now shifts south of the border to the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee for game three on Tuesday night. Game four goes Wednesday night, also in Wenatchee, before a fifth game back at Western Financial Place in Cranbrook on Friday.

Should the series require more then the five contests currently confirmed, game six would be Sunday in Wenatchee and a potential seventh game would take place next Tuesday, Apr. 11, in Cranbrook.

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