Photo Credit: Russ Alman/WildHockeyPhotos.com
GAME BOXSCORE | WATCH ON BCHL TV
WENATCHEE, Wash. – It only seemed appropriate that a Wenatchee Wild player would score three goals Friday on “St. Hatrick’s Night” at Town Toyota Center.
That player was Cade Littler (East Wenatchee, Wash./Wenatchee Wild), playing in his 100th British Columbia Hockey League game, as the Wild scored a 7-4 win over the Merritt Centennials and earned two critical standings points in a constantly-tightening Interior Conference race.
The Wild struck first when Parker Murray (Manhattan Beach, Calif./Wenatchee Wild) scored from the left wing on a 2-on-1 rush, giving the hosts a transition goal and the lead just 7:09 into the contest. Maddix McCagherty scored to tie it with 5:48 left in the first period, after taking a pass out of the corner from Connor Farren and deking the puck past goaltender Owen Millward (Davis, Calif./Janesville Jets). However, the Wild got that goal back just 14 seconds later when Littler scraped a goal past Connor Sullivan for a 2-1 advantage.
A roughing penalty to Kyle Isenberg put the Wild on the power play even before the ensuing faceoff, and Littler rifled a one-timer from Ean Somoza (Simi Valley, Calif./Wenatchee Wild) past Sullivan 36 seconds later, stretching the lead to 3-1. Wenatchee went to the intermission up 4-1, after Somoza took a pass from below the goal line from Micah Berger (Bethesda, Md./Sioux Falls Stampede) and stuffed the puck into the top corner of the net with just four seconds left in the first period.
The teams traded goals early in the second, as Aidan Lindblad beat Millward with a wrist shot just 50 seconds out of the break and Dane Westen (Castle Rock, Colo./Vernon Vipers) snapped his first junior goal past Sullivan at the 1:18 mark of the period. Littler scored his hat-trick marker with 3:20 left on a brief pileup at the net, putting Wenatchee ahead 6-2 with a period to go.
Somoza put a cap on Wenatchee’s offensive effort with 8:08 remaining and the Wild on a two-man advantage, taking a high-slot pass from Berger and tossing it into the top corner of the net for a five-goal lead. Two Merritt goals in the final minutes – a shorthanded backdoor tap-in from Diego Johnson with 7:09 left and another from Rocco LaCara with 1:56 to go – were as close as the Centennials would get after that.
“It was nice to get the win. We need it, and we need to try to keep climbing in the standings to put ourselves in the best spot we can for the playoffs,” said Wenatchee director of scouting and assistant coach Leigh Mendelson. “We got off to a great start and did a lot of great things 5-on-5, and scored a power play goal. I thought we got bogged down and got a bit sloppy, but a lot of guys did a lot of good things tonight.”
Littler also posted an assist in a four-point effort, while Somoza picked up three assists to go with his two goals. Berger ended the night with four assists, and Luke Weilandt (Northbrook, Ill./Green Bay Gamblers) posted three helpers. Murray had the last multi-point mark for Wenatchee, earning a goal and an assist.
The Wild enjoyed a couple of other milestones besides Littler’s 100th game and Westen’s first BCHL goal. Defenseman David Hejduk (Parker, Colo./Wenatchee Wild) also made his 100th BCHL appearance, and Somoza’s five points moved his career total to 124 in a Wenatchee uniform, moving him past Shawn Pauly for fourth all-time in team history. Littler’s memorable night pushed his career total to 109 points with the Wild, rocketing him into 11th on the team’s all-time scoring leaderboard.
Millward made 17 saves to pick up his 12th win of the season, while Sullivan slipped to 3-17 on the year, making 35 saves for the Centennials. Both sides of the Wild power play ticked upward in the game, with the penalty kill wiping away both Merritt power plays and the Wenatchee power play unit going 2-for-6.
The win moves the Wild to 26-22-1-2 for the year, with the fourth-place and seventh-place teams in the Interior Conference standings separated by just two points. Merritt fell to 12-34-3-2 with the loss, their fifth straight. The Cranbrook Bucks stop in Saturday for their final matchup of the regular season, with a 6:05 p.m. puck drop. Live coverage is available on Newsradio 560 KPQ and BCHL TV.
Saturday’s game is Pucks & Paws Night presented by Jimmy John’s, as the Wild celebrate Walt the Wolf’s 15th birthday. To purchase tickets to that game or any upcoming home game, call 509-888-7825 or click here. 2023-24 season tickets are also on sale now, as are ticket packages for the 2023 Shaw BCHL Playoffs, presented locally by Windermere Real Estate. Updated news and information on Wild hockey are always available at www.wenatcheewildhockey.com and on the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Merritt 1 1 2 – 4
Wenatchee 4 2 1 – 7
1st Period-1, Wenatchee, Murray 23 (Somoza, Szydlowski), 7:09. 2, Merritt , McCagherty 2 (Farren), 14:12. 3, Wenatchee, Littler 26 (Berger, Weilandt), 14:26. 4, Wenatchee, Littler 27 (Somoza, Gasparini), 15:02 (PP). 5, Wenatchee, Somoza 20 (Berger, Weilandt), 19:56. Penalties-McCagherty Mer (roughing), 8:43; Marshall Wen (roughing), 8:43; Isenberg Mer (roughing), 14:26.
2nd Period-6, Merritt , Lindblad 7 (Thurston), 0:50. 7, Wenatchee, Westen 1 (Somoza, Murray), 1:18. 8, Wenatchee, Littler 28 (Berger, Weilandt), 16:40. Penalties-Farren Mer (high-sticking), 7:26; Hejduk Wen (tripping), 12:32; Sollied Mer (disrespectful abusive behaviour 11.2), 16:40.
3rd Period-9, Wenatchee, Somoza 21 (Berger, Littler), 11:52 (PP). 10, Merritt , Johnson 11 (Thurston), 12:51 (SH). 11, Merritt , La Cara 3 (Shara, Schmidt), 18:04. Penalties-Emerson Mer (holding), 2:49; Thurston Mer (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:30; Hejduk Wen (interference), 9:01; La Cara Mer (interference), 11:33; Schmidt Mer (unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:33.
Shots on Goal-Merritt 5-7-9-21. Wenatchee 18-15-9-42.
Power Play Opportunities-Merritt 0 / 2; Wenatchee 2 / 6.
Goalies-Merritt , Sullivan 3-17-0-0 (42 shots-35 saves). Wenatchee, Millward 12-9-1-1 (21 shots-17 saves).
Referees-Jarrod Boman (104), Eric McLaughlin (115).
Linesmen-Chris Hastings (132), Thomas Williams (125).