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PHOTO: AJ Vanderbeck and the Wenatchee Wild lost for the first time this season, 5-1 to the Vernon Vipers on Saturday night at Town Toyota Center. CREDIT: Russ Alman, Digital Media Northwest.

by Arch Ecker

Opening Night started with a pregame tailgate party outside Town Toyota Center, but at the end of the night it was the Vernon Vipers who were celebrating after handing Wenatchee their first loss of the year on Saturday night.

The first period was scoreless, and though Wenatchee held a shots on goal advantage, Vernon struck first when Jimmy Lambert stepped out of the penalty box and drove down the right side, lifting a backhander over the blocker of Seth Eisele for a 1-0 lead at 2:47. Alex Swetlikoff redirected a Josh Prokop pass from the right wing into the net at 4:31 and the Vipers led 2-0. AJ Vanderbeck powered through two Vernon defenders and came in alone on Viper goalie Anthony Yamnitsky who stopped the shot and then denied Lucas Sowder on the rebound chance but Jasper Weatherby was able to punch it home to cut the deficit in half at 11:23, and the 2-1 score stood through two periods. The Vipers scored a power play goal :22 seconds into the third period with Brett Stapely finishing off a crossing pass. Keyvan Mohktari added a shorthanded goal at 5:10 after a mishandled puck gifted the Viper forward a breakaway just :07 seconds into a Wenatchee man advantage. Stapely added his second of the game as he deflected a Shane Kelly shot from the right point for the final 5-1 margin. Seth Eisele takes his first loss, stopping 19 of 24 shots while Anthony Yamnitsky denied 36 of the 37 shots he faced against his former team.

Wenatchee (2-1-0-0) will play two games at the BCHL Showcase at the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack, BC next weekend, meeting the Nanaimo Clippers (2-1-0-0) on Saturday and the Langley Rivermen (1-0-2-0) on Sunday.