WENATCHEE, Wash. – Friday’s British Columbia Hockey League game between the Wenatchee Wild and Trail Smoke Eaters at Town Toyota Center was dramatic in every sense of the word.
Dramatic in terms of positioning in the Interior Conference standings. Dramatic in terms of its finish. Dramatic in terms of how it got there in the first place.
The Smoke Eaters erased a three-goal Wenatchee lead with just 17 seconds left in the third period, but the Wild prevailed in the shootout by a 5-4 tally, picking up their sixth consecutive win and moving into a three-way tie for sixth place in the Interior Conference standings. Wenatchee climbed two spots in the standings, after starting the night a point behind both Trail and the Vernon Vipers with games in hand on both.
The Wild took command right from the start, when Luke Weilandt (Northbrook, Ill./Green Bay Gamblers) found Parker Murray (Manhattan Beach, Calif./Wenatchee Wild) for a backdoor one-timer and the opening goal of the night just 41 seconds off of the opening faceoff. Murray added to the lead with 4:42 left on the first-period clock, leading a 3-on-1 charge into the Trail zone before keeping the puck and snapping a wrist shot past goaltender Keegan Maddocks to double the lead.
The hosts closed the first period with a flourish, when Christian Kim (Torrance, Calif./Anaheim Jr. Ducks 16U) found Micah Berger (Bethesda, Md./Sioux Falls Stampede) for a backdoor one-timer of his own to push the lead to 3-0 with just 45.9 seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
Trail started its comeback push in the second period, and used the special teams to do so. With Jordan Hendry out of the game after picking up a slew-footing penalty, Brady Hunter raced the puck into the Wild zone and beat Andy Vlaha (Snohomish, Wash./Wenatchee Wild) with a breakaway tally 5:25 into the period, cutting the lead to 3-1 with a shorthanded goal. Hunter would set up Mathieu Cobetto-Roy for a one-timer of his own at the 11:49 mark, firing the puck from the right wing for a goal of his own and cutting the advantage to 3-2.
Wenatchee got a goal of its own on the power play from David Hejduk (Parker, Colo./Wenatchee Wild) at 7:41 of the third, pushing the lead back to two goals. However, Quinn Disher fired off a one-timer with 8:11 to go to trim the lead back to a goal, and Hunter tallied again with a power play and an extra Smoke Eater skater on the ice with just 17 seconds remaining to tie the game. Ean Somoza (Simi Valley, Calif./Wenatchee Wild) had the only goal of the shootout for Wenatchee, burying a chance in the bottom of the second round.
Vlaha earned his third straight win, making 28 saves, while Murray’s two goals headlined the offensive effort for the Wild. Hejduk had a goal and an assist, while Somoza and Weilandt had two assists apiece during regulation. Hunter topped all scorers in the game with two goals and an assist for Trail. On the other side, Maddocks took the shootout loss, making saves on 42 of Wenatchee’s 46 shots in the game.
Special teams were a strength in the game for the Smoke Eaters, going 2-for-4 on the power play and adding Hunter’s shorthanded goal in the second. Their only 5-on-5 goal came just seven seconds after a penalty to Mario Gasparini (Lakeville, Minn./Wenatchee Wild) expired, on Disher’s goal in the third. Meanwhile, the Wild went 1-for-11 on the man-advantage, including nine minutes of unsuccessful power play time in the second period on Hendry’s slew-foot major and a kneeing double-minor against Ethan Willoughby.
Gasparini observed a milestone of his own in the game, marking his 100th junior hockey game with a dramatic win. Gasparini played his first 40 games in the United States Hockey League, suiting up for the Sioux Falls Stampede and Tri-City Storm during the 2020-21 and early 2021-22 seasons. His most recent 60 games have all been spent in a Wenatchee Wild uniform.
The Wild jumped to 9-10-0-1 with the win, while Trail slipped to 8-11-1-2 with the loss. The two teams, plus Vernon, are all tied at 19 points apiece in the Interior Conference race, though Wenatchee has one game in hand on the Vipers and two on the Smoke Eaters. Wenatchee and Trail get set for a final rematch Saturday to close out the weekend at Town Toyota Center, with the opening puck drop slated for 6 p.m. Live coverage is available on 1340 The Hawk and BCHL TV.
Saturday’s game is the team’s “Wildgiving” contest, presented by Les Schwab Tire Centers. Fans are encouraged to bring a toy for the Les Schwab Community Toy Drive, and will receive a free ticket voucher for an upcoming game in exchange for their contribution. To purchase advance tickets to Saturday’s game or any upcoming Wenatchee home game, call 509-888-7825 or click here. Updated news and information on Wild hockey are always available at www.wenatcheewildhockey.com, or on the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Trail 0 2 2 0 0 – 4
Wenatchee 3 0 1 0 0 – 5
1st Period-1, Wenatchee, Murray 5 (Weilandt), 0:41. 2, Wenatchee, Murray 6 (Somoza, Weilandt), 15:18. 3, Wenatchee, Berger 5 (Kim, Hejduk), 19:15. Penalties-Marshall Tra (hooking), 6:08; Makway Tra (interference), 11:50; Schenk Tra (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:18.
2nd Period-4, Trail, Hunter 5 5:25 (SH). 5, Trail, Cobetto-Roy 6 (Hunter), 11:49 (PP). Penalties-Hendry Tra (slew foot, game misconduct), 2:50; Gasparini Wen (holding), 10:33; Makway Tra (cross-checking), 12:53; Willoughby Tra (kneeing), 15:17; Berger Wen (hooking), 16:17.
3rd Period-6, Wenatchee, Hejduk 5 (Somoza, Littler), 7:41 (PP). 7, Trail, Disher 6 (Schenk), 11:49. 8, Trail, Hunter 6 19:43 (PP). Penalties-Smith Tra (high-sticking), 2:41; served by Kim Wen (too many men on the ice), 3:54; Marshall Tra (charging 7.4), 5:41; Remissong Tra (high-sticking), 7:02; Gasparini Wen (holding), 9:42; Hunter Tra (hooking), 14:09; Bohnet Wen (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:09; Hejduk Wen (holding), 18:52.
1st OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Cobetto-Roy Tra (hooking), 3:52.
2nd OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Trail 0 (Fechko NG, Parsons NG, Schenk NG), Wenatchee 1 (Berger NG, Somoza G).
Shots on Goal-Trail 12-10-9-1-0-0-32. Wenatchee 17-11-11-7-0-1-47.
Power Play Opportunities-Trail 2 / 4; Wenatchee 1 / 11.
Goalies-Trail, Maddocks 1-2-0-1 (46 shots-42 saves). Wenatchee, Vlaha 5-5-0-1 (32 shots-28 saves).
Referees-Mike Ellis (88), Jarrod Boman (104).
Linesmen-Chris Hastings (132), Thomas Williams (125).