Tim Matwey

Donald and Airey become Cranbrook’s first BCHL award winners

The B.C. Hockey League announced its 2022-23 award winners on April 27, and a couple of Cranbrook Bucks were recognized for their accomplishments this season.

Cranbrook head coach and general manager Ryan Donald was named the Joe Tennant Memorial Trophy winner as BCHL coach of the year, while goaltender Nathan Airey won the Michael Garteig Trophy as the league’s top goalie.

During his third season in the BCHL, Airey earned the fourth-most wins among netminders with 23, doing so in just 36 games due to missing six weeks with an injury. His 2.44 goals-against average and .925 save percentage both ranked third among BCHL goalies, while he finished in the top 10 with a pair of shutouts this season.

Airey, a product of Cochrane, Alta. who celebrated his 20th birthday on April 24, completed his BCHL career playing a total of 100 games in the regular season and playoffs.

Through 88 appearances during the regular season, Airey posted a 44-32-12 record with a 2.77 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage, and six shutouts. He played in another 12 games during the Fred Page Cup playoffs, going 4-6-2 with a 2.96 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage, and one shutout.

Airey is off to the University of Minnesota this upcoming fall to begin his NCAA career with one of the top Division I programs in the United States. He announced his commitment to the Golden Gophers in early February, and he’s joining a team that finished second in the country after losing in the National Championship game earlier this spring.

Donald’s coach of the year nod also comes in just his third season as Bucks bench boss. He helped Cranbrook take a significant step forward in just its second full BCHL campaign.

The Bucks finished second in the Interior Conference and third overall with a 36-14-4 record and 76 points — a 13-point improvement from their first full season a year ago. Donald’s squad also defended Western Financial Place ice with the league’s second-best home record at 21-5-1.

Cranbrook scored the fifth-most goals during the regular season with 199, while its 139 goals-against and plus-60 goal-differential ranked second in the league. The Bucks’ penalty kill unit was in the top five with an 81 percent success rate.

In addition to finding success as a team on the ice, Donald and the Bucks were successful in helping a number of players reach their NCAA aspirations this season as well. In addition to Airey, Cranbrook had four skaters commit to Division I programs.

Forwards Jarrod Smith (College of the Holy Cross), Luke Pfoh (Bowling Green State University), and Cooper Boulanger (U.S. Air Force Academy), as well as defender Cam Kungle (Lake Superior State University) all secured their post-secondary plans. The Bucks finished the 2022-23 season with 12 players committed to Division I schools in the future.

Donald and Airey are the first members of the organization to ever win year-end league awards, while former Cranbrook forward Tyson Dyck was runner-up for rookie of the year last season.