Penticton Vees lose battle of the top two teams in BCHL

Wenatchee Wild thumped the Penticton Vees 4-1 on Saturday.

James Miller

James Miller

Courtesy of Fraser Rodgers

The Penticton Vees hopped across the border for a matchup of the top two teams in the BCHL, but it was the Wenatchee Wild headlining the show.

Charlie Combs recorded a natural hat-trick, as the Wild thumped the Vees 4-1 Saturday, at the Toyota Town Center.

Combs scored the Wild’s first three goals, two on the power-play, and Colin Burston added some salt to the wound with a goal midway through the third period. The win was the Wild’s first against Penticton since joining the BCHL last year, as the Vees took both meetings a season ago.

Grant Cruikshank scored the Vees’ lone goal, on a power-play in the first period but it wasn’t enough, as the Vees dropped their first road game in six weeks. Mat Robson was a standout despite the loss, as the Vees’ goaltender stopped a season-high 44 shots, with several of them being high-caliber chances.

The Vees got a taste of their own medicine, as it was the Wild who got off to a quick start. Just 26-seconds into the game, Combs scored his first of three on the night. The Wild forward found his own rebound in front of the Vees’ net and didn’t make the same mistake twice.

Combs was at it again, midway through the first, as he scored the first of two power-play goals. Combs finished off a cross-ice pass from Brendan Harris on the far-side at 9:54.

The Vees got back into the game on a power-play goal of their own just 44-seconds later. Cruikshank got a pass on the goal-line from Nicholas Jones and quickly spun a shot through the goalie’s legs at the near-post; Cruikshank scoring his team-leading fifth power-play goal.

Penticton had a couple chances after that goal late in the period to pull even but they couldn’t manufacture an equalizer. First, Taylor Ward drove hard to the net down the right-wing but had his wrist-shot ring off the post on the blocker-side. Then newcomer Matt Gosiewski was robbed by the Wild’s Anthony Yamnitsky in tight, after he darted out his pad to deny Gosiewski’s first as a Vee.

Read more: Vees move rookie forward

Those moments loomed large, as the Wild regained their two-goal lead in the middle frame. On another power-play, Combs moved from the wall into the right-circle before firing upstairs, buzzing Robson’s ear at 9:54; the Wild scored less than 30-seconds into their third power-play.

Just before that goal, Robson made a great save on the goal-line to prevent a sure goal. Chad Sasaki’s shot from the slot caught a piece of the goaltender but started to trickle behind him. Robson alertly dove back and snatched the biscuit off the goal-line with his free hand before a Wild stick could get to it.

Turner Ripplinger tried to provide a spark for his team by dropping the gloves with Wenatchee’s Austin Chavez. The two grappled in the Wild zone, with Ripplinger getting a couple quick shots in before wrestling Chavez down to the ice.

Read more: Ripplinger a hard-nosed rookie for Penticton Vees

The second period was one dominated by the Wild, as they got the only goal and outshot the Vees 19-1 and 35-11 through two periods.

Penticton couldn’t gain any traction in the third period, despite some stellar goaltending again from Robson. The Wild looked like they had a sure goal on an open net shot by Brian Williams, but Robson dove across to make an improbable paddle save. It was all for not however, as the Wild iced it shortly thereafter.

Burston got a measure of revenge, as the Wild forward tipped in a point-shot from in front of the Vees goal at 10:14.

he Vees (15-3-0-0) are now off until Nov. 5, when they visit the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (8-11-0-0) at the Shaw Centre. It’s the first of six meetings between the two Okanagan foes.