The Cranbrook Bucks are set for their second exhibition season in the BC Hockey League. This one will look a lot different than the first.
Really, the only similarity is a schedule loaded with games against their closest rival in the Trail Smoke Eaters. The Bucks open their preseason schedule on Friday in Trail, before hosting the Smoke Eaters in Cranbrook the next night.
Cranbrook is then expecting to get its first look at the Wenatchee Wild on Oct. 1, when the Wild cross the border for the first time since March 2020. The Bucks round out their exhibition schedule the next night when they visit Trail for a second time.
Those four games in eight days are a polar opposite of the nine games Cranbrook played during last fall’s two-month extended exhibition season.
The Bucks will also play in front of fans for the first time, after spending their debut season playing in empty arenas. As of now, the BCHL begins its season with 50 percent building attendance capacity.
The Cranbrook Bucks and the Trail Smoke Eaters are set to faceoff against Canada's Women's National Team Oct. 4 and 5 as they prepare for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing!
— BCHL (@BCHockeyLeague) September 20, 2021
In addition to the four games against Trail and Wenatchee, Cranbrook recently had a fifth game added to its pre-season schedule. The Bucks will host Canada’s Women’s National Team on Oct. 5 in a high-profile showcase game to wrap up the exhibition season.
The Women’s National Team is fresh off winning a gold medal at the recent Women’s World Hockey Championship in Calgary. They are now preparing for their trip to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics in February.
The ladies squad will travel from Calgary to the Kootenays for a pair of exhibition games on Oct. 4 in Trail and Oct. 5 in Cranbrook. This is the Bucks’ final tune-up before the start of the regular season on Oct. 8.
The Bucks exhibition roster
According to the team and league websites, the Bucks are set to begin the preseason with 28 players — 17 forwards, eight defensemen, three goalies.
Among the 17 forwards currently with the team, 11 were in Cranbrook at some point last season. Those familiar names include Walker Gelbard, AJ Vasko, Noah Leibl, Zeth Kindrachuk, Tyson Dyck, Nathan Fox, Noah Quinn, Hayden Gelbard, Jarrod Smith, Jaden Fodchuk, and Brendan Rogers.
Seven new Bucks joining the herd this season
— BCHLNetwork (@BCHLNetwork) September 2, 2021
Also on the roster up front are Andrew King, Liam Hansson, Johnny Johnson, Kellan Hjartarson, and Luke Pfoh — who have all been previously committed by the team. The lone forward who is neither a returning player nor previously committed is Nathan Dann.
Returning for camp on the backend are Cam Kungle, Cam Reid, Cole Assailly, Quaid Anderson, and Rhys Bentham. Recruited defensemen Bauer Morrissey and Carsyn Good are also on the roster, while Kaelen Whittingham has emerged as a newcomer.
The Bucks have three goaltenders on their exhibition season roster, including returnee Nathan Airey. Joining Airey is Michael Harroch — who Cranbrook acquired in July — and the third goalie is Evan Gartner.
Between now and the beginning of the regular season, the Bucks roster needs to be trimmed down to a maximum of 25. The upcoming exhibition season should prove to be highly competitive — not just with opponents — but for the final roster spots as well.