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PHOTO: AJ Vanderbeck (19) and Murphy Stratton (6) connect on a shorthanded goal late in the second period of Friday’s 7-3 win over Coquitlam.
CREDIT: Russ Alman / Digital Media Northwest

by Arch Ecker

Wenatchee got 4 point nights from captain AJ Vanderbeck (3g, 1a) and linemate Murphy Stratton (1g, 3a) and pulled away from a feisty Coquitlam Express squad with a 7-3 win in front of 2,408 fans at Town Toyota Center Friday. The game was the sixth of a seven game homestand that concludes Saturday.

It took only :45 seconds for the Wild to send fans to their feet when AJ Vanderbeck snapped home a shot after a forced turnover in the right wing corner, assisted by Murphy Stratton and Sam Morton. The Express were able to tie it up at 13:02 when Eric Linell sniped the high blocker side corner from the left circle, but :27 seconds later, Vanderbeck rifled one home again after a failed Express clearing attempt, set up by Stratton and Jacob Modry and the Wild led 2-1 after 1. August Von Ungern-Sternberg tried to stuff home a wraparound in the second period and got it behind the Express goalie but not across the line, until Nathan Iannone planted it for a 3-1 lead. Late in the period, with Coquitlam on a power play, the Wild transitioned into a 3-on-1 shorthanded rush where Vanderbeck saucered a feed from the right wing to Stratton driving down the left for a swift one-time finish and a 4-1 lead that seemed to deflate the Express. It went from bad to worse for Coquitlam when Vanderbeck completed his hat trick on the same penalty kill :45 seconds into the third period, from Zak Galambos and Cooper Zech. Still, the Express continued to grind away, with Eric Linell scoring his second of the game at 2:40 of the third to make it 5-2, but Wenatchee got it back on an August Von Ungern-Sternberg shot that muscled through the blocker arm and body of the goalie, catching him a bit by surprise on the feed from Lukas Svejkovsky, playing in his first game in almost four months. Coquitlam’s Ryan Stack cut the gap to 6-3 on a shorthanded strike after stepping out of the penalty box on a 5-on-3 Express penalty kill, then coming in alone down the left wing to fire a shot across Seth Eisele low on the glove side. In the final minute, Von Ungern-Sternberg chased down a loose puck in the offensive zone then spun it out front for Sam Hesler who swatted it home for what proved to be the final 7-3 margin.

The hat trick for AJ Vanderbeck is his fourth for Wenatchee, tying Charlie Combs for most in franchise history. The win moves Wenatchee to 1 point behind both Vernon and Penticton for best record in the BCHL.

Wenatchee (32-13-3-1) concludes their seven game homestand against Langley (21-16-10-2) on Saturday for “Faith and Family Night”. Group ticket packages for all games are on sale now at the Wild office by calling 509-888-7825.