The Cranbrook Bucks recently completed their first month of game action, albeit in the form of exhibition games. Still, seeing the expansion team hit the ice for the first time was a fulfilling moment for all involved.
October featured five games for the Bucks, all against the Trail Smoke Eaters. The first two were traditional exhibition games, while the next three games were the beginning of the Kootenay Cup, a seven-game series for regional supremacy.
As a team, the Bucks won one game, lost three, and tied one during their opening month. They experienced some highs and lows in October, as any junior hockey team would, even more so an expansion team. There were some players who stood out in October, so let’s take a look at who had a good showing.
FIRST STAR – DANE DOWIAK, FORWARD
Dowiak was the Bucks only multi-goal scorer in the opening month, leading the way with a pair. He also chipped in an assist, giving him three points in October, which was second on the Bucks. He and linemate Briggs Gammill are two highly skilled players who seem to feed off each other, with Dowiak often being the finisher in the team’s first month.
Dowiak’s presence was that of a skilled, speedy, shifty player that created offense with little time and space. The beneficiary of Gammill’s playmaking, Dowiak set himself apart from the rest of the Bucks’ forwards as an elite producer. He was a dangerous player whenever he was on the ice and proved to be the Bucks’ greatest weapon.
The 18-year-old Penn State commit’s team-leading goal total, combined with being the most dangerous player on the ice, makes Dowiak the Bucks top player in October.
— Cranbrook Bucks (@CranbrookBucks) November 5, 2020
SECOND STAR – BRIGGS GAMMILL, FORWARD
19-year-old Gammill led the Bucks in points and assists, with four, in three games last month.
Playing alongside Dowiak, Gammill showed play-making abilities that are mature beyond his time in the BCHL. The pair of American imports seemed to find instant chemistry together and were the Bucks most consistent forwards in October.
For Gammill, his elite playmaking combined with the team lead in assists and points was only half of the package. He played an aggressive, fast-paced game, and set the tone for his younger teammates.
A skilled forward that makes things happen offensively, Gammill is also as responsible as they come. He was a true leader for the Bucks in all aspects of the game in October.
The Bucks recently recognized his leadership capabilities during the extended training camp and through the first month of games. On November 5, Gammill was named captain of the Bucks, the first in team history.
THIRD STAR – NOAH QUINN, FORWARD
Nelson, BC product Noah Quinn had an impressive first month of BCHL exhibition play to earn third star honours.
When the Bucks announced his commitment to the team back in April, they expected him to contribute in all areas of the game, and he has.
Quinn picked up an assist on a power play goal scored by Zeth Kindrachuk in the Bucks preseason opening game. Later in the same game, Quinn found the back of the net himself, on a quick strike goal assisted by Noah Leibl.
The goal came just 15 seconds after a Smoke Eaters tally put the Bucks down 5-3 early in the third period. Quinn’s one goal and one assist performance in that first game accounted for his only two points in three October games. However, his contributions go beyond point production.
In addition to his power play assist and even-strength goal, Quinn was part of a very effective penalty-killing unit for the Bucks. His aggressive yet responsible play while killing penalties stood out in the opening month of the exhibition season. He constantly challenged opposing players to make quick, uncomfortable plays, and often got in the way of their shots and passes.
Despite just missing the cut for the three stars of the month, these two players had a strong first month with the Bucks.
Zeth Kindrachuk — The undersized forward was one of the more noticeable Bucks’ players from the first drop of the puck. Kindrachuk will forever be known as the first player to ever score a goal for the Bucks. He did that in the team’s first exhibition game back on October 3 in Trail. The goal seemed to give Kindrachuk some confidence and his aggressive style of play became more effective.
While the Bucks were trying to get their feet under them in the early games, Kindrachuk was a steady force for his team. He finished October with a goal and an assist in three games.
Jacob Zacharewicz records a MASSIVE 32-save shutout as the Bucks earn their first win in franchise history and take game 1 of the Kootenay Cup with a 3-0 win.
— Cranbrook Bucks (@CranbrookBucks) October 17, 2020
Jacob Zacharewicz — Any team that finds success does so on the shoulders of a strong goaltender. The Bucks did just that in October, as Zacharewicz seemed unbeatable once he found his game. After a shaky first start in a Bucks jersey, he started to gain some confidence and finished the month on quite a roll.
Zacharewicz stopped 45 of 46 shots in his last two games of October, including earning a win and a shutout in game one of the Kootenay Cup. He finished the month with a 1-1 record, a 3.00 goals-against-average, a .897 save percentage, and one shutout.
More importantly for the Bucks, he started looking like the goalie that they thought they were getting when they announced his commitment to their inaugural season roster.