Fear the deer — The Herd has returned home.
The Cranbrook Bucks are set to host the Merritt Centennials to open their home BCHL schedule with a back-to-back series on Friday (Oct. 6) and Saturday (Oct. 7).
The Bucks will face off in front of a home crowd after starting the season on the road with a .500 record in four games.
“I think it’s something we’ve always felt has been an advantage for us, when we play at home,” said Ryan Donald, the head coach and general manager for the Bucks. “We’ve got a terrific fan base, we’re fortunate to have a great facility here…
“…We’re excited to showcase where this team is at with new faces and new names and ultimately get in front of our own fans for the weekend.”
For the past two weekends, the Bucks have hit the BC Interior highways, picking up two wins and dropping two losses against BCHL opposition based out of the Okanagan.
The Bucks capped off a preseason schedule with three wins and one loss, after tilts against various teams that converged on Trail for exhibition matchups.
“Getting into the regular season, the speed, the pace, everyone’s ratcheted it up a notch, ourselves included,” said Donald,”but it’s ultimately an opportunity where you’re seeing guys that are going to have to grow in some different ways and gives you a different lens to look through upon your group.
“So it’s been good. We split both weekends, I think we’ve identified a couple things in our game that we have to improve and certainly plan to make those adjustments as we’re rolling along in the coming weeks.”
The squad includes 10 returning veterans, some affiliate players from last year that have stepped up to join the full-time ranks this year, and some new faces.
The leadership group includes a trio of returning veterans; Donovan Frias was named team captain, while Bryce Sookro and Jarrod Smith were tapped as alternates.
One of the new arrivals includes Noah Urness, a 17 year old who leads the team with four points in four games and recently announced a commitment to St. Cloud State University.
“We are happy to congratulate Noah on solidifying his NCAA future at St. Cloud,” said Donald, in a press release announcing the commitment. “Noah has been a pleasure to work with so far this season, and this opportunity is well deserved. Our staff looks forward to working with Noah to further prepare him for NCAA hockey.”
Urness is the ninth player on the current Bucks roster who is currently committed to a college hockey program.
It’s way too early to start watching the standings — there’s only a four-game sample size — but there’s an early logjam in the points column.
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks and the West Kelowna Warriors, both teams that the Bucks played on the road over the last two weeks, are at the top of the Interior Conference with a 3-1 record, respectively.
Cranbrook is in a three-way tie at four points with the Vernon Vipers and the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The Surrey Eagles in the Coastal Conference remain the only undefeated club so far.