by Arch Ecker
The Wenatchee Wild got back into the win column Saturday night with a 5-1 win over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at Weyerhauser Arena in Port Alberni, BC, Canada.
It didn’t take long for Wenatchee to get on the board, as Sam Morton drove into the Bulldog zone, then snapped a shot from the right circle that caught the goalie and bounced up and over his shoulder into the net at 2:37 to give the Wild a 1-0 lead that stood at the end of the first, with Wenatchee outshooting the Bulldogs 11-3. Three consecutive Wild penalties early in the second gave the Bulldogs some life, and they tied the game on a Keaton Mastrodonato power play goal at 8:16. Wenatchee reclaimed the lead for good at 10:54 as Morton won an offensive zone faceoff to Nathan Iannone on the right wing who fed it around the wall behind the net to August Von Ungern-Sternberg. Morton cut to the front of the net, snapped home the one-timer and it was 2-1 Wild at the end of the second. Morton completed the hat trick at 7:37 of the third, as Von Ungern-Sternberg set up Nathan Iannone coming up the middle, and though his doorstep attempt was kicked away, Sam Morton was right there to sweep home the rebound and the Wild lead was 3-1. With just under 5 minutes left, Cooper Zech intercepted a Bulldog breakout pass, entered the zone and laid it out for Nathan Iannone whose shot deflected toward Morton who gloved it, dropped it, and fired it behind the goalie in one smooth continuous motion for a 4-1 lead. Alberni Valley had a glimmer of hope late when the Wild took a penalty for too many men on the ice, followed by a boarding call on Slava Demin that gave the Bulldogs a 5-on-3 power play. They took their time and pulled the goalie to create a 6-on-3 advantage, but Jasper Weatherby blocked a shot from the point and fired a carom off the left wall 150 feet into the empty net for the final 5-1 margin, an unassisted, empty net shorthanded tally to cement the victory. For Sam Morton, his hat trick was the first of his junior career, and 34th in franchise history. It was the first road hat trick for a Wild player since AJ Vanderbeck scored 4 goals in a game at Surrey in January 2017.
Wenatchee (34-14-3-1) wraps their Island Division road swing against the Victoria Grizzlies (28-17-4-3) on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm. The Wild return home Feb. 16 and 17 against Trail for the final two home games of the regular season. Group ticket packages for all games are on sale now at the Wild office by calling 509-888-7825.