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Regular season building blocks laying foundation for bright future

Even the the most “glass half full” optimist would admit that results for the Cranbrook Bucks through the 2023-24 BCHL season weren’t as the club had drawn up.


With the beginning of the BCHL playoffs now imminent, the Bucks will enter the first round as underdogs after a regular season which produced just nine wins at home. However, a season which brought several peaks and valleys has provided a young group of players with plenty of building blocks to lay foundations for future campaigns.

One need not look past the number and names of players who are eligible to return from this season’s group to ascertain the potential for this club to embark on a run of competitive seasons in a growing BCHL, which will officially introduce five new teams to the field of competition in 2024-25.

Five members of this year’s Cranbrook Bucks roster will age out of junior hockey at the conclusion of the BCHL playoffs, this leaves a plethora of eligible returnees which includes a list of youngsters with multiple seasons remaining in their junior hockey careers.

Rookie skaters who were born in 2006 include Sammy Hynes, Kaslo Ferner and Jordan Murray. This trio of youngsters will be eligible to return to the Bucks next year with a full season of experience under their belts and several years before aging out of junior hockey.

You can count on seeing plenty more of Kaslo Ferner in future Cranbrook Bucks seasons.

Same goes for 2005 skaters Malachi Freh, Nic Leggett, Patrick Murphy, Noah Urness and veteran goalie Carter Capton.

Foundational 2004 players who will enter their final season of junior hockey eligibility next year are Donovan and Julian Frias, Blake Cotton, Tyler Wishart, Jarrod Smith, Shane Baker, Nick Capasso, Jacob Fletcher, Bryce Sookro, Sam Belanger and Patrick Czarnecki.

It is expected that some of the 2004 players may move on to collegiate hockey next season, but several of those players will return next season as they continue to seek a college commitment to NCAA hockey.

Bucks captain Donovan Frias celebrates OT goal vs Penticton.

Bucks coach Ryan Donald concedes this year’s young group faced its share of adversity and challenges through the season and praises their resilience while pointing to their bright future.

“It’s part of the cycle of junior hockey,” Donald says. “From the age perspective, we have a good amount that’s eligible to return next year.”

Donald singles out goaltending as an area that will likely be very strong next season with a returning Carter Capton manning Cranbrook’s crease for a third season.

Veteran goalie Carter Capton is expected to be back for a third season.

“Carter Capton, a young man that’s had incredible growth in his own play and as an individual,” says Donald. “I’m excited to see what he can bring and where he can take his game to the next level.”

Additionally, the 2023-24 season also marked the launch of the JPHL’s Kootenay Hockey Academy, a program which operates in partnership with the Bucks to offer a chance for junior hockey prospects to gain an education while seasoning their play in anticipation of making the jump to the BCHL. The KHA program will serve as a pipeline of sorts for the Bucks, which has already seen players like Danik Reeves and Jaxon Loewen get some BCHL reps in the green and white.

The Cranbrook coach adds playoffs will bring a clean slate for this year’s group who has been able to register wins over some of this season’s top teams in the league, including the Penticton Vees, Surrey Eagles and West Kelowna Warriors.

“We [coaching staff] love working with these kids everyday when they show up to the rink,” Donald says. “We’re looking forward to playoffs. You hear a lot, once you get in – anything can happen. We’ve managed to put up some key wins against some good hockey teams in tricky situations.”

It is fair to surmise that the regular season has seen its share of hurdles and adversity for the Cranbrook Bucks, but this young group has weathered the storm and now sets its sights on establishing a long playoff run.

Today’s challenges are tomorrow’s successes, and this young Cranbrook Bucks core appears to be on its way to a lot of success in its very near future.

– Article includes social media link from BCHL & photos from Martin Ross and Trevor Crawley