Zeth Kindrachuk is pictured in action against the Trail Smoke Eaters in the Penticton pod, Saturday, April 10. Jack Murray photo

Zeth Kindrachuk is pictured in action against the Trail Smoke Eaters in the Penticton pod, Saturday, April 10. Jack Murray photo

Bucks drop two to pod rivals

Cranbrook getting to know Penticton Vees, Trail Smoke Eaters, very well indeed.

The Cranbrook Bucks sustained two losses over the weekend in the Penticton pod of the BCHL.

On Friday, the Bucks went down 5-3 to the Penticton Vees, who have been strong in their hometown pod. On Saturday, the Trail Smoke Eaters got their second straight win over the Cranbrook squad, 4-2.

The Bucks were set to take on Penticton again Monday night.

On Friday, Nathan Airey made 38 saves in goal for the Bucks, while Christian Lowe, Noah Liebl, and Zeth Kindrachuk supplied the scoring.

Strong play from the Bucks was not enough on Saturday against Trail. Cranbrook got 35 shots on goal, but only Tyson Dick and Rhys Betham got past Trail goalie Logan Terness.

The Bucks are now 1-4-0-0 on the truncated regular season, not including Monday’s result (not available by press time).

However, short as the season may be — only 20 games, due to the pandemic restrictions, it’s still good to have hit the ice, finally, for the first BCHL regular season in Cranbrook’s history.

Head coach Ryan Donald earlier spoke to the Townsman about how the return to the ice is some history for the whole community.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Donald said. “It’s one thing, for the group of 20 guys on the ice, but goes into all aspects of the community — the billet community, the tutors that have been around for the winter, that have helped support these guys through such a challenging year … to finally get on the ice is pretty special.”

Donald added that for the players who are reaching the end of their junior career, this season and every game is an opportunity to showcase their abilities, and hopefully have an opportunity to play in the future.

The Bucks are going to get to know the Penticton Vees and the Trail Smoker Eaters very well. In a normal season, of course, the Bucks would have faced all 17 other teams in the BCHL. That will have to wait to next season.

“At the same time,” Donald said, “if you had told us at the beginning of January we would play 40 games in 40 days against the same team we would have taken it, just to get the chance to get back on the ice and play against somebody in a different sweater. We’re happy to play against anybody at this point. Beggars can’t be choosers.”

All three of the teams are different in the Penticton pod, in the way that they want to play, Donald said. “Age, background, experience all goes into the mix. But every night we have a chance to compete. We want to set our standards high and we want to be winning hockey games, and growing and developing our players as well.”

Despite the record so far, the Bucks still head into every game looking for victories.

“Every time we lace our skates up and get on the ice we expect to be winning, and that’s our goal — where we set our bar and measure ourselves for success,” Donald said.

The five-week season commenced on April 2 and will run until Sunday, May 9. Sixteen teams participating in the season, and have each been assigned one of five pod locations — Vernon, Penticton, Chilliwack, Coquitlam and Port Alberni — where they will play the other members of that pod for the duration of the year.

And for the second year in a row — and the second time since 1962 — there will be no champion declared at season’s end, and the Fred Page Cup will not be awarded.

“As of right now, there is no plan for a playoff or to declare a champion,” said Jesse Adamson, with the BCHL. “Our agreement with the PHO and the regional health authorities allows us to only play the five-week segment of our regular season that we have currently scheduled.

“That being said, if COVID numbers improve between now and the end of the season and the health authorities allowed it, we would explore some sort of playoff, but nothing is in place at the moment.”

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