Fast Start For Penticton Pushes Wenatchee To The Brink
PHOTO: Wenatchee Wild forward Cade Littler flashes a smile to a teammate in Tuesday’s home game against the Penticton Vees. Littler scored a first-period goal in a 3-1 Penticton victory. (Photo credit: Russ Alman/Digital Media Northwest)
By Austin Draude Wenatchee Wild Media Relations and Broadcast Manager
WENATCHEE, Wash. – For most of Tuesday’s British Columbia Hockey League playoff game at Town Toyota Center, the Wenatchee Wild played as well or better than their visitors from Penticton. The hits were heavy, the scoring chances were hard-earned and the defenses were as up to the task as ever.
The first nine-and-a-half minutes, however, made just enough of a difference for the Vees, getting three goals over nine shots in that span to push past the Wild for a 3-1 victory. The win sent Penticton ahead three games to none in the best-of-seven Interior Conference semifinal round, setting up a must-win Game 4 for the Wild on Wednesday night.
Wenatchee got back-to-back shots on goal in the opening seconds and continued to pepper the Penticton net, just missing the target on some shots and forcing the Vees defenders to block other chances. The Wild blocked three shots in one sequence themselves before Spencer Smith tossed in a chance of his own from the edge of the slot to put the Vees in front 3:28 into the game.
A couple of bounces put the Vees up by three before the midway point of the period – Josh Niedermayer’s shot from the left point was redirected by Josh Nadeau for a two-goal lead at the 7:41 mark, and Nic DeGraves bounced a pass to the weak side off a skate in the slot and into the net for a 3-0 advantage at 9:26.
The Wild got one back with 9.2 seconds remaining in the period, when Michael Valdez stole a clearing attempt from Penticton netminder Luca Di Pasquo, tossing it to the front of the net and getting a deflection from Cade Littler to make it a 3-1 game at the intermission.
The teams continued to battle for the next goal, to no avail – Penticton went through the second period with a 15-8 advantage on shots, while the Wild closed the night with 14 of the final 18 shots on goal. The Vees were unsuccessful on their only power play in the second period, and held Wenatchee off the board on two Wild power plays in the final 20 minutes.
“We had a really good start, some really good shots, good chances,” said Wild assistant coach Leigh Mendelson. “We fell asleep for five minutes and they scored three. I think we played as well as them, if not better, for the next 50, but that’s a big hill to climb against a good team.”
Josh Nadeau finished with a goal and an assist, while Niedermayer had two assists in the game. Bradly Nadeau picked up a helper as well, earning a point in all seven Penticton playoff games thus far. Di Pasquo stopped 32 of Wenatchee’s 33 shots, while Andy Vlaha took the loss despite 29 saves of his own.
The teams return to the ice in Wenatchee for Game 4 Wednesday evening, with the puck drop set for 6 p.m. and live coverage available on NewsRadio 560 KPQ and BCHL TV. Game 4 tickets are on sale by phone at 509-888-7825, online at www.wenatcheewildhockey.com, and in person through the Wild front office. Single-game playoff tickets are available for just $13, or $12 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.
Updated news and information on Wild hockey are always available through the team’s website and on the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.