Photo: Jennifer Small
The Smoke Eaters began the preseason Friday night at home against a familiar foe from the East Kootenay in the Cranbrook Bucks, but the Bucks played spoiler in the first game with fans in a 5-3 win.
In both teams’ first game of the preseason, the nerves, excitement, unfamiliarity and even the rust showed throughout the night. With teams that have played each other so many times in the last year, despite all the previously mentioned factors, the rivalry was not lost. The Smoke Eaters lead the way physically almost all night and despite momentary lapses in the second period, played a relatively good game. They maybe would have liked to capitalize on one or two of their Able Plastics powerplay chances, but on the opposite side went a perfect 5/5 on the Flying Steam Shovel penalty kill.
The night started with a Jordan Hendry goal at 14:54 of the first period to bring the fans inside Cominco Arena to their feet for the first time in a very long time! His goal would give the Smoke Eaters the lead after 20 minutes.
The second is where the game got away for the Smoke Eaters as Callum Tung, who split the game with Cayden Hamming, was on the wrong end of a few misfortunate bounces. Tung made some very big saves during his 30-minute stint in the Smoke Eaters net and definitely left an impression in the crease. Nathan Fox would score first for the Bucks on a partial break followed by Jarrod Smith less than a minute later to give the Bucks a 2-1 lead. That lead would stretch to two as Cole Assailly would score off the faceoff with a shot from the left wall that deflected past Tung to make it 3-1 Cranbrook. Brendan Ross would get a Cominco-style bounce just 39 seconds later however as he made no mistake beating Evan Gartner on the glove side to bring the game back within one. Cranbrook then fired back with a rebound goal on Hamming’s first shot of the game following the goalie switch at the halfway mark of the second, as Noah Liebl added his first of the preseason.
The Smoke Eaters would once again make it a one goal game in the third, this time courtesy of Coalson Wolford who blocked a shot and then picked up the loose puck for a breakaway where he beat Gartner five hole to make it 4-3 just over five minutes into he third. The Bucks would put the game out of reach after the smoke eaters turned the puck over below their own goal line, leading the Andrew King scoring the final goal of the night.
The Smoke Eaters will look to learn from this as they head to Cranbrook on Saturday night expecting to return the favour and beat the Bucks on their own ice. Puck drop is at 7pm MT, 6pm PT, with the game available on HockeyTV as well as on Mixlr.