Cherie Morgan Photography

Cranbrook Bucks enter the BCHL Showcase on a roller coaster ride


The Cranbrook Bucks are set to begin their first BCHL Showcase this weekend in Chilliwack. All 18 teams appear in two games at the event, which is held before hundreds of professional and college scouts and coaches. Cranbrook will face a pair of teams it has yet to play – the Powell River Kings and the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

The Bucks enter their first Showcase coming off arguably their most emotional regular season win in franchise history. In fact, the beginning of Cranbrook’s second BCHL season has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. Still trying to find consistency, the Bucks have experienced some highs and some lows this season.

Prior to dropping the puck on the 2021-22 regular season, the Bucks enjoyed a near-perfect preseason. While playing in front of fans for the first time, they went undefeated in exhibition play.

Once opening night came around, however, Cranbrook began to see a higher level of competition from its opponents. The Bucks opened the regular season on Oct. 8 when they hosted their rivals from Trail. The game started similar to the way their preseason did as the Bucks came out flying and raced to a 4-0 lead by the end of the second period.

Cranbrook was able to hang on for a 5-3 win on opening night, but it did not come easy in the third period. The Bucks were outscored, outshot, and outplayed by the Smoke Eaters as they fought hard for the season-opening win.

Cranbrook then travelled to Trail to partake in the Smoke Eaters home opener the following night. The Bucks once again got the scoring started with an early first period goal, but it was the only tally on the night for the visitors. Three unanswered Smoke Eater goals later, the Bucks found themselves sitting with a  1-1 record through two games. 

A rivalry in the making?

Cranbrook then welcomed the West Kelowna Warriors to town on Oct. 15 and 16 for back-to-back home games. The Bucks once again opened the scoring in the first game of the weekend mini-series. They took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission and outplayed the Warriors to the tune of a 14-8 shots advantage.

However, a second period onslaught by the Warriors proved to be too much for the hosts. West Kelowna outshot the Bucks 18-11 and scored four goals in the middle frame en route to taking Friday night’s game by a 4-1 final.

One night later, Cranbrook surrendered the game’s opening goal for the first time all season. Still, the Bucks showed calmness and resiliency while playing from behind, and eventually blew it open in the second period. Cranbrook outshot the Warriors 22-8 in the middle frame and found the back of the net three times.

West Kelowna wasted little time getting back within a goal in the third period, making it a 3-2 game just 1:16 into the final frame. The Warriors outshot Cranbrook 15-5 in the third as they pressed for the game-tying tally, but the Bucks held on for the win.

It was a wild third period filled with outstanding goaltending from Nathan Airey and stellar team defense by the Bucks. The intensity ratcheted up as the period went on, and things boiled over after the final horn.

Following the post-game dust-up, Bucks defensemen Rhys Bentham and Cam Kungle both received two-game suspensions. The league’s discipline came as a result of fighting majors assessed after the completion of the game. Cranbrook now prepares for the BCHL Showcase missing not only two key defensemen, but team captains as well.

Looking ahead to the showcase

The Bucks kick off their first-ever BCHL Showcase appearance on Thursday at 2 pm Mountain Time against Powell River. After four games exclusively against the Nanaimo Clippers so far this season, the Kings sit at 0-4 on the year. Powell River opens the showcase on Thursday against the Wenatchee Wild.

Cranbrook plays its second game of the Showcase on Saturday against the Capitals, also at 2 pm MT. Cowichan is also winless on the season, losing three times to Victoria and twice to Alberni Valley.

Despite the combined 0-9 record of their Showcase opponents, the Bucks know they can’t take any team in this league lightly. These are two important games on the schedule for a Cranbrook team that has split its first four games of the season.

The Bucks are without some key players this weekend due to both suspension and injury, so there are some elevated roles to come on the roster. Expect the players who are in the lineup — and the Bucks as a team — to use the BCHL Showcase as statement games.