Bob Learmonth / Cranbrook Bucks

Assessing the Bucks goaltending situation without Jacob Zacharewicz

 

Over the last several weeks, the BC Hockey League has lost dozens of players to leagues south of the border.

While the BCHL is currently at the mercy of provincial COVID-19 restrictions, its teams have been unable to play games. This has led to players taking the opportunity to play in various leagues throughout the United States.

The NCAA, US Hockey League, and North American Hockey League have all benefited from the lack of a BCHL season to this point.

While this has left many teams with holes to fill, the Cranbrook Bucks goaltending will look different going forward.

Zacharewicz leaves Cranbrook for Minnesota

One of the latest players to head south is Bucks goaltender Jacob Zacharewicz. The 2001-born Riverhead, New York product was recently added to the roster of the NAHL’s Minnesota Wilderness.

Zacharewicz is scheduled to attend Brown University this September, so it’s understandable that he wants to see some game action. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions in Canada, his departure from Cranbrook to Minnesota means he likely won’t be back.

In essence, his Bucks career is over before it really even started.

Although he did not appear in any regular season games, Zacharewicz had a good run during the extended training season with the Bucks. He carried a 3-1 record, a 2.36 goals-against-average, a .908 save percentage, and one shutout.

Despite these being exhibition numbers, they were very meaningful stats for the Bucks. Zacharewicz picked up his shutout in the same game he earned the Bucks their first win as a franchise.

That shutout victory came on Oct. 16, when he stopped all 32 shots against the Trail Smoke Eaters. Zacharewicz was named first star that night, and the Bucks seemed to have a locked-in goalie for their inaugural season.

The 19-year-old goaltender steadied a young team trying to find its way as a new entity in the league.

After playing his last training season game with the Bucks in November, Zacharewicz joined Minnesota in mid-January.

On the weekend of Jan. 30 and 31, Zacharewicz picked up his first two victories as a member of the Wilderness. Those wins evened his record at 2-2 and helped him improve to a 2.06 GAA and .936 save percentage through five appearances.

So what does his departure mean for the Bucks? Well, there is a pair of goalies still with the team looking for an opportunity.

Airey’s time to shine?

At the time of this writing, Nathan Airey remains the only other goalie on the Bucks active roster, after signing last Oct. 23.

The 2003-born product of Cochrane, Alberta emerged as a highly-touted prospect after a strong stint with the Airdrie Xtreme U15 AAA. Over two seasons with the Xtreme, Airey compiled a 23-7-7 record with a 2.58 GAA, a .910 save percentage, and three shutouts.

Following his second season in Airdrie, the Kootenay Ice selected Airey in the fifth round at the 2018 Western Hockey League bantam draft.

After two years in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, Airey has landed in the BCHL as a 17-year-old. In four games for the Bucks during the training season, he maintained a 3.99 GAA and a .887 save percentage, both respectable numbers.

(Bob Learmonth / Cranbrook Bucks)

Airey was originally signed to be Zacharewicz’s backup in all likelihood and would have been given more time to develop.

He has seen his role on the team change drastically, however, and will be given a chance to own the Bucks crease going forward.

Just before the training season was cut short by COVID-19 restrictions, Airey’s confidence seemed to be growing. He was being given more playing time and looking more comfortable in each game he played.

Trianni has earned a chance of his own

In addition to Zacharewicz and Airey on the active roster, the Bucks have a third goaltender on their reserve roster. 2002-born Christian Trianni of Stouffville, Ontario also made a pair of appearances for the Bucks during the extended training season.

He showcased himself to a 1.90 GAA and a .939 save percentage, stopping 31 of 33 shots in 63 minutes of work.

Trianni joined the Bucks from the Toronto Jr. Canadiens U18 AAA. In 46 career games with the Jr. Canadiens, Trianni had a 30-12-4 record and tallied nine shutouts. He also managed a 1.35 GAA and a .952 save percentage last season.

Although he has not yet been added to the Bucks’ active roster, Trianni has earned some playing time if the season gets going.

Zacharewicz led the way with five games played for the Bucks during the BCHL training season. Airey ranked second on the team with four appearances, ahead of Trianni’s two.

With Zacharewicz no longer in the picture, the door is wide open for the two remaining goalies to compete for playing time. Whether it be this season or next, these two will continue to push each other while battling for the starting job between the pipes for the Bucks.