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Bucks juggle their roster entering the second half of the season 

The Cranbrook Bucks have made a couple of trades in recent weeks, as their roster starts to take shape ahead of the season’s second half. Both trades involved members of Cranbrook’s inaugural season, and the deals have been with Coastal Conference clubs. 

First, just ahead of their final game before the Christmas break on Dec. 18, Cranbrook announced a trade with the Victoria Grizzlies. The Bucks traded 2002-born forward Noah Leibl and future considerations to the Grizzlies in exchange for 2003-born defenseman Declan Ride

Then, just before returning from the holiday break, the Bucks announced a second trade, this time with the Langley Rivermen. Cranbrook traded 2005-born forward Walker Gelbard to Langley in exchange for future considerations. 

Here are a few more details on the moves including some background on the players involved. I’ll also share some thoughts on the moves from Bucks head coach and general manager Ryan Donald.  

Bucks check a couple of boxes with Ride

The trade with Victoria for Ride seems to be a good hockey deal. The Bucks used an area of surplus in depth forwards to acquire a big right-handed shooting defenseman. Ride becomes the only righty on the Bucks backend, and at six-feet, six-inches tall, he adds some much-needed size to the blue line as well. 

Ride brings a wealth of experience with him to Cranbrook, as he is in his third campaign of junior A hockey. He played 21 games with the Grizzlies this season before being traded to the Bucks, in which he scored one goal and added three assists for Victoria.

He spent the past two seasons with his hometown Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, although Ride didn’t play any games last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in 2019-20, he contributed six assists in 42 games with the Blades.

In the team’s official news release announcing the trade, Donald expressed his thrill about the addition of Ride.

“We are excited to add (Ride) to our defensive group and help him continue in his development towards his NCAA career. We felt it was an opportunity to add an experienced right-handed defenseman with size and puck-moving ability to our (defense) corps, to complement our group well.”

The big blueliner has demonstrated a nice touch in the offensive zone since joining the Bucks. Ride is committed to playing NCAA Division I hockey at Miami University (Ohio) starting this September.

Leibl: The inaugural Buck

The price for Ride, in addition to future considerations, was Cranbrook’s first-ever player in Leibl. Not only was he the longest-serving member of the team, but Leibl was also a valued member of the community.

The Bucks announced Leibl as the first player in franchise history on Jan. 27, 2020. The San Diego, CA product then spent nearly a full year in Cranbrook to avoid COVID-19 border issues while taking part in the team’s inaugural season.

The import arrived in Cranbrook in August 2020 to make sure he was early and ready for camp. Leibl participated in the extended training season with the Bucks, and then stuck with the team during a four-month shutdown of the BCHL due to the pandemic.

He then participated in the 2020-21 pod season, scoring five goals and adding an assist while playing in all 20 games for Cranbrook. When the Bucks announced their team awards at the completion of last season, Leibl took home the Community Service Award.

Leibl returned to Cranbrook this past fall for his second season with the Bucks, in which he contributed one goal and two assists in 13 games before the trade to Victoria. In the same news release announcing the trade for Ride, Donald wished Leibl well in his future.

“(He) will be greatly missed by his teammates and our community, as he was a steady presence in many of our community events. While it is never easy to see a teammate go, we thank him for his time with the Cranbrook Bucks and helping us to lay the foundation for what our organization will become.”

Gelbard gets a fresh start

The Gelbard trade to Langley for futures was an interesting one, in the sense that he is a 16-year-old who made a very strong impression in his first taste of the BCHL.

Gelbard was named an affiliate player for the Bucks during last year’s 2020-21 pod season, yet he was their most productive player, posting two goals and seven assists for nine points in 12 games played. Among Cranbrook players who suited up for at least seven contests, Gelbard’s 0.75 points-per-game was the best on the Bucks.

The second taste of BCHL action this season didn’t go as well for Gelbard, who contributed just a goal and three assists for four points in 22 appearances. It seemed he was perhaps due for a fresh start, and in a move closer to his home of North Vancouver, BC, that’s what Gelbard got from the trade to Langley.

In the Bucks news release about the trade, Donald wished Gelbard well in his return to the Lower Mainland.

“As a coach, (he) has been enjoyable to work with every day and to see the growth and development that he has made as a player and person. We will miss his enthusiasm at the rink, but wish him the best in his move closer to home.”

Following the Gelbard trade, the Bucks are down to just 21 players and 12 forwards on their active roster. Not only does Cranbrook have extra space on its active roster, but there is also both an import and a 20-year-old spot available following the departure of Theo Thrun in November

With the trade deadline looming, one would expect these are not the last moves Cranbrook will make as it looks to solidify the roster for the stretch drive of the season.