The COVID-19 pandemic has affected a lot of people, and in many different ways.
For Christian Trianni, it led to the difficult decision to end his BCHL career before it really even started — for now.
Recently, Trianni joined me for a conversation about how he ended up in Cranbrook, and why he left. He also described his time with the Bucks, which he seemed to really enjoy.
“I loved it, it was amazing. The guys were really good, and the coaches, they were professional. The way (coach Ryan Donald) ran everything, you could tell he was coming from Yale and he brought that experience.”
Prior to arriving in Cranbrook last fall, Trianni spent two seasons playing for the Toronto Junior Canadiens U18 AAA in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. His time there was quite successful, but it almost didn’t happen.
“Well, my first year was a little crazy. I was playing rugby in Ireland when the season started, so I didn’t have a team at that point. I had never really felt anxious about finding a team, I always just figured ‘Don’t worry, when I get back I’ll sort everything out.’ The thought of not playing never really crossed my mind.”
— Christian Trianni (@CTrianni) June 20, 2018
After returning from Ireland, the then 16-year-old Trianni found himself without a place to play. The season had started, teams had their goalies, and reality sunk in.
That is when opportunity came knocking.
”The Toronto Junior Canadiens called me, they (were) interested in me the previous season. One of their goalies had a medical condition and couldn’t play anymore, so they picked me up.”
Hockey or rugby?
After almost missing out on hockey due to being away from home for rugby, Trianni spent his first GTHL season as a dual-sport athlete.
”I was still playing rugby at the time, so I was going back-and-forth between rugby and hockey. My days were like, go to the training centre to play rugby and train there, then drive and hour and a half to (hockey) practice, and train. Then play on the weekends.’”
”It was a really hectic schedule, so I decided I (needed) to put one to the side, whether it be hockey or rugby, because it was too much on my body, and mentally.”
Despite the heavy workload in his first U18 AAA season with the Junior Canadiens, Trianni had an impressive campaign. He carried a 14-4-2 record, a 1.35 goals-against-average, a .952 save percentage, and three shutouts in 20 games.
Entering his second season with the Jr. C’s in 2019-20, Trianni decided to focus solely on hockey. It allowed him to streamline his training and work on his game between the pipes.
”The decision to follow through with hockey was sort of a shift in mindset. My training regimen really amped up, I was doing a lot more off the ice and a lot more on the ice.”
”Development-wise I felt it was really beneficial. It helped me to get my confidence (and) work on kinks in my game I knew I needed to improve in order to take that next step.”
— Christian Trianni (@CTrianni) December 19, 2019
Trianni continued to impress in his second GTHL season, going 16-8-2 with a 1.68 goals-against-average, .942 save percentage and six shutouts in 26 games.
After a full season focused on training and developing his game, Trianni felt he was ready for the next step and a new challenge.
How Trianni got to the Cranbrook Bucks
At the end of last season, Trianni began looking for somewhere to play for 2020-21. He was involved in a fair amount of recruiting, and eventually set something up to start the season in the United States.
However, with COVID-19 ramping up south of the border, Trianni ultimately decided to pass on that opportunity, and find a team in Canada.
”I was listening to a podcast, and (it) mentioned Nathan Lieuwen was starting an organization in the BCHL — the Cranbrook Bucks. As soon as I heard that, the light bulb went off.”
“I sent him an email and Ryan (Donald) actually called me that evening and asked if I could fly out there in two days. So, not a lot of time, (but) I ended flying out there and spent three weeks with them in training camp and loved it.”
At the time, Jacob Zacharewicz was the only goalie signed by the Bucks, so Trianni showed up trying to make a name for himself.
”I just tried to stay (as) open-minded as possible and really prove myself. Really show that I deserved to be there and I could compete at this level and help win games.”
Trianni started one exhibition game for the Bucks and played exceptionally well despite taking the loss. He stopped 27 of 29 shots faced and gave his team a chance to win a game they wound up losing 3-1 with a late empty net goal against.
The netminder ended up making two appearances during the pre-season, going 0-1 with a sparkling 1.90 goals-against-average and .939 save percentage.
A three-way competition in goal
Not long after Trianni joined Zacharewicz on the Bucks’ goalie depth chart, the team added another goalie — 17-year-old Nathan Airey.
With the addition of the younger Airey, it is hard to fault Trianni if he began to question his situation. Still, he showed up, competed, and kept trying to prove himself.
A short time later, the exhibition season was ruled complete, and the regular season was just a couple of weeks away. Of course, COVID-19 had other plans, and the season was delayed, forcing teams into another training camp-like scenario.
“I tried to stay optimistic about the situation, and tried to be as positive as possible. I really wanted to make my mark when I was on the ice. I’m a pretty competitive person and I think the guys saw that, and it sends a message, it goes a long way.”
“For the most part (the goalies) pushed each other really hard and it was good because it allowed each of us to get better and develop. We had a good relationship as well, so there was no tension between the guys.”
In January, the BCHL season was delayed again for at least another month. Zacharewicz, who is committed to Brown University for next season, left Cranbrook to get into games in the North American Hockey League.
Suddenly, the Bucks’ crease was less crowded, and it appeared Trianni and Airey was the tandem going forward.
As the season remained on-hold due to restrictions surrounding the pandemic, more and more players left the BCHL in search of playing time. It wasn’t long before Trianni questioned if staying in Cranbrook was best for him as well.
I need to start thinking about what’s best for me
Despite how much he loved being at the rink with the Bucks, Trianni admits it was difficult going months without playing a game.
”Not playing, it’s pretty tough. Everyone loves to play, it’s the most fun part of hockey. Going six months without playing a game, it really took a toll on guys. Towards the end of it there when the (season) kept getting pushed back, guys started to lose hope.”
With the Bucks projected number-one goalie Zacharewicz already gone, Trianni knew he would get a real good look if the season got underway. Still, he questioned if the situation was the best for himself, and began considering other options.
”I started working with my agent this year, three months ago. The conversation started to become, ‘It doesn’t look like the season is going to start, and I need to start thinking (about) what’s best for me.’”
“He was saying the NAHL is a really beneficial league for goalies, and started giving some examples of goalies who went there and actually committed (to the NCAA) this year. Hearing those examples and talking with a few coaches and players down here, it just sparked my interest.”
“With the deadline prolonged, I was thinking ‘Maybe (the BCHL’s) actually not going to start. Maybe (I should) leave and go check out the NAHL, and see if it would be a good spot for me.’”
Trianni ended up making the difficult decision to leave Cranbrook. It’s been a few weeks now since he left the BCHL in search of opportunities in the NAHL, and he is now weighing his options for next season.
Another decision to make
Despite leaving the BCHL this season, Trianni isn’t ruling out a return to the league in the future.
”I still love the BCHL, and I want to set my goals high. I’m deciding on whether or not I’ll pursue playing in the BCHL or another league like the NAHL. I’ve got options and it’s just a matter of what I feel is the best choice and best fit for me.”
”I see myself as a winner, I want to win and set myself up for the best chance of success. Ultimately, I have to factor (in) all of those things and take those into account going into next season to make the best decision for me.”
Trianni, like most players who go through the BCHL, hopes his junior hockey career eventually leads to the NCAA.
”The goal is a Division I scholarship, it’s always been a dream of mine to play in the NCAA. That’s the goal and I’ll continue to pursue that dream. I’m not too sure where I’ll play next year, I’m still deciding on that. Wherever I end up, the goal is to play Division I. And not only play at that level, but be very successful, that’s what I aspire to do.”
It is clear that Trianni is a focused and motivated individual. He showed up in Cranbrook ready to compete, and never stopped working. He really enjoyed his time in the East Kootenays, and I think it devastated him hearing the 2020-21 BCHL season is actually happening, just weeks after him leaving.
However, Trianni is on a journey to find what’s best for him and his career, and I don’t doubt for a second that his drive and determination will help him find success.