The Wenatchee Wild used a combination of a punishing physical presence along with a relentless assault to post a convincing 7-2 victory over the AJHL champion Spruce Grove Saints to claim the Doyle Cup and earn a berth in the Royal Bank Cup Tournament to compete for the National Championship. Wenatchee won the Doyle Cup Series 4 games to 1.
The pace was brisk and the hits were plenty from the outset, and the opening salvo was fired by Josh Arnold, a backhander set up first by a pass from Matt Dorsey to Sam Hesler, then Hesler to Arnold for the 1-0 lead at 15:45. Ten seconds later, Logan Ganie tied it up for the Saints, but :36 seconds after that, Sam Morton muscled his way through two defenders to slip a low shot by Nolan Kent to retake the lead, which stood at the end of the first.
Spruce Grove tied it back up exactly 60 seconds into the middle frame as Logan Ganie benefited from a defensive zone turnover and a 2-on-0 break. Wenatchee responded quickly when August Von Ungern-Sternberg poked a neutral zone pass towards the Saints zone, chased it down and rifled a top corner shot sending the water bottle into orbit for a 3-2 lead less than a minute later. The air left the building at 14:01 when AJ Vanderbeck went end to end, dangling through the neutral zone and drilling his signature heavy wrister home for a 4-2 lead. Before the period expired, a quick transition pass from Cooper Zech to Sam Hesler spawned a 2-on-1 rush, with Hesler dishing to Matt Dorsey for the slick backhand finish and 5-2 lead after two.
The third period featured a lot of shutdown hockey, with the Wild adding two more to the heap. The first, a power play goal by Jasper Weatherby from the lower left circle, ripped high blocker side and assisted by a slick pass from Cooper Zech. With the Wild shorthanded a minute later, the Saints opted to pull the goalie and try to salvage the series, but Zech saucered a pass from deep in his own zone that sailed on the fly into the abandoned net for the 7-2 final. The Wild outshot Spruce Grove 38-31.
The Royal Bank Cup Tournament takes place May 12-20 in Chilliwack, BC. Wenatchee will open their tournament schedule on Saturday May 12 at 7pm against the host team, the Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL). The Wild play again Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm against the winner of the ANAVET Cup (Nipawin or Steinbach). Tuesday at 2pm the Wild meet the winner of the East’s Fred Page Cup Tournament, then on Thursday at 2pm it’s the winner of the Dudley-Hewitt Cup. Competition beyond that point is dependent upon round robin results.