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Wild Quartet Prepares For BCHL 60th Anniversary Weekend


PENTICTON, British Columbia – Even with no games on the schedule, this weekend marks a milestone in the 2022-23 season for the Wenatchee Wild.

On one hand, it’s a brief moment to rest and recover ahead of a 17-game home stretch for the season, 11 of which will be played at Town Toyota Center. On the other hand, it’s bittersweet – the next time the Wild have a full weekend off, it’ll mean the season has come to an end, hopefully with a Fred Page Cup championship in hand.

For four Wenatchee players, though, the competition continues Friday and Saturday with a visit to Penticton for the British Columbia Hockey League’s All-Star weekend and 60th Anniversary celebration. The action gets started for the quartet with the BCHL Top Prospects Game on Friday evening, while the 3-on-3 All-Star Tournament hits the ice Saturday on a brand-new outdoor rink constructed in downtown Penticton.

One of those players was an early selection to the festivities, named in mid-November as Wenatchee’s representative in the All-Star tournament. It’s the second selection to the All-Star weekend for forward Cade Littler, who was selected to the All-Star tournament and the Top Prospects game last season. Rising COVID case counts and tightened restrictions forced last year’s All-Star weekend to be cancelled, but this season, he’ll get a chance to showcase his skills in the All-Star tournament. Littler was selected by the Calgary Flames in last year’s NHL Draft, ruling him out for this year’s Top Prospects game.

The 3-on-3 format of Saturday afternoon’s All-Star tournament is one where Littler has enjoyed considerable success lately. After scoring in a 3-on-3 overtime period over New Year’s Eve to knock off the Prince George Spruce Kings, he did it again January 6 to cap off a 6-5 comeback victory over the Powell River Kings that tied a record for the largest comeback in team history. He enters the All-Star weekend with a team-best 18 goals to go along with 23 assists.

In addition to the All-Star tournament, Littler will be on the ice for Saturday afternoon’s skills contest as well, competing in the passing and agility competition and the breakaway relay.

“I think playing 3-on-3 outside will be fun,” said Littler. “I think the atmosphere of playing outside will be pretty cool. I think the whole thing will be cool.”

Two others were in the running for the All-Star tourney, but both landed slots in Friday’s Top Prospects Game. Ean Somoza was a late selection to the game, despite leading the Wild in scoring this year with 11 goals and 35 assists. After notching 53 points a year ago, the Wild forward also enters the final stretch of the year on the cusp of a milestone, sitting just a point shy of the century mark for his BCHL career.

“I’m looking forward to having a good weekend and having fun in Penticton playing some high-level hockey,” said Somoza. “I know there will be a lot of good players, so I’ll do my best out there. It’s a great opportunity, and I can’t wait to showcase my skills to everybody. I was a late add, so I want to do the best I can, finish some checks, and do my thing.”

A pair of defensemen will be in the game with Somoza – David Hejduk was among the original Top Prospects selections back in December, and the future Harvard Crimson blueliner enters the game with 26 points, sitting among the BCHL’s top 10 scoring defensemen.

“The Top Prospects game is a great opportunity. It’s going to be a lot of fun for sure,” said Hejduk. “I know there’s going to be a great crowd and I’m really excited for it. All of us have a lot of skill, and I’m looking forward to showcasing some playmaking ability and working well with my temporary teammates. It’s not something I expected, but I’m really thankful for it.”

The youngest player on the Wenatchee roster also finds himself among the selections for Friday’s game – Lukas McCloskey was chosen to join Hejduk among the defensemen in the game, in his first season out of the Anaheim Jr. Ducks 16-and-under program in California. The Irvine, California native has eight points on the year, and scored his first junior goal as part of a three-point effort in December against West Kelowna.

“I’m really honored and humbled,” said McCloskey. “I want to show why I’m there in the first place, that I’m capable of playing my game with very high-level players.”

Friday’s Top Prospects game will be held at the South Okanagan Events Centre beginning at 6 p.m., while Saturday’s skills contest and 3-on-3 All-Star Tournament are slated for 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. starts at Penticton’s newly-built outdoor rink. Click here for details on this weekend’s BCHL 60th Anniversary celebration, including links to purchase tickets, and All-Star and Top Prospects rosters.