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PHOTO: Wild players help load mounds of teddy bears into trucks on “Teddy Bear Toss Night” at Town Toyota Center on Saturday night. CREDIT: Russ Alman / Digital Media Northwest

It only took :23 seconds for the Wenatchee Wild to score their first goal on “Teddy Bear Toss Night”, and when the final horn sounded, Wenatchee had a 10-2 victory to move into second place in the BCHL’s Interior Division.

For the second year in a row, it was AJ Vanderbeck who scored the goal that would spawn a barrage of stuffed animals and teddy bears to rain down from the seats at the Town Toyota Center. This year, it came on the first shift of the game. Vanderbeck took a nice touch pass from Lucas Sowder and fired it on net, collected the rebound, circled behind the net into the left corner, turned and fired the puck through the goalie’s legs for the 1-0 lead. The game was halted for just over six minutes to allow for retrieval of three truckloads of bears, donated to “Operation Santa Claus” for distribution. Once play resumed, the Wild kept up the pressure, transitioning into another scoring chance as Jacob Modry blocked a point shot, directing it to August Von Ungern-Sternberg who poked it past the Silverbacks defender and chased it down the left wing, and once he was below the faceoff dot, tossed it back to Sam Morton who stuffed the one-timer up high for a 2-0 Wild lead at 5:58. Later in the period, Jackson Wozniak scored his first Junior A goal as he jammed home a pass from Jared Christy off a turnover and Wenatchee led 3-0 after 1.

At 13:31 of the second period, on a power play, the Wild were moving the puck around sharply in the offensive zone when Cooper Zech came off the right point to below the top of the circles and fired, with his shot being tipped home by Jasper Weatherby for a 4-0 lead. On another power play at 18:04, Lucas Sowder set up Jasper Weatherby in the left wing corner, and Weatherby spotted Sam Morton in the slot, whisking a pass across that Morton snapped up high, popping the water bottle off the top of the net giving Wenatchee a 5-0 lead heading into the second intermission. The Wild were outshooting Salmon Arm 31-10 at that point.

Into the third period, Josh Arnold scored against his former team on the power play from the slot, followed two sharp passes from Chad Sasaki and Slava Demin. Arnold tagged the high blocker side corner at 4:21 for a 6-0 edge. The Silverbacks ruined the shutout bid of Austin Park, scoring on a power play at 7:05 but the Wild responded just over a minute later. Daniel Chladek was battling for the puck, outmanned in the right wing corner. Arriving directly after a partial line change, Jasper Weatherby extracted the puck, spun and fired it past the glove hand of Salmon Arm goalie Kyle Dumba who saw the shot the whole way but couldn’t stop it and the Wild lead was now 7-1. The Silverbacks opted to bring Reid Cooper into the net in relief, but he soon faced a 4-on-2 rush that Josh Arnold finished off with a tip low on the blocker side for an 8-1 Wild lead. At 13:24, August Von Ungern-Sternberg finished off an energetic shift by scoring on his third shot in a span of :20 seconds. He took his second shot of the shift from the right circle, collecting his own rebound as it rattled around to the left wall. He send a backhand dish to the left point for Slava Demin, who slid it across to Chad Sasaki on the right side. Sasaki moved it down to the glove side of the net where Jasper Weatherby quickly spun it out front and Von Ungern-Sternberg fired it home to make it a 9-1 game. Then, at 15:24, Wenatchee hit double digits as Murphy Stratton tipped home a Slava Demin shot on the power play to make it 10-1. In the final minute, Salmon Arm snuck one more past Austin Park for the 10-2 final, with Wenatchee outshooting Salmon Arm 47-22 on the night.

Meanwhile, the Penticton Vees lost at home Saturday night, 4-2 to the Nanaimo Clippers at home, allowing the Wild to move ahead of the Vees into second place heading into the holiday break. Vernon won at home on Saturday, 5-2 over Trail to maintain control of first place, and the top record in the BCHL.

Wenatchee (23-9-2-1) has concluded the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule and will return to the ice on Friday December 29 and Saturday December 30 at home against the Penticton Vees. The December 30 game is “WAHA Night”, honoring the Wenatchee Amateur Hockey Association and features a post game jersey auction among other events. Group ticket packages for all games are on sale now at the Wild office by calling 509-888-7825.