With both teams riding hot streaks into their first meeting of the year, it was the Wenatchee Wild who toppled the Penticton Vees 4-2 on Wednesday night.
The Penticton Vees (18-8-1-2) had an uncharacteristically high number of turnovers at the Town Toyota Center, and it cost them dearly as the Wild (17-10-2-0) capitalized time and time again in their home rink.
The Wild had a 1-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes thanks to a power-play goal from Matt Gosiewski, who shovelled home the rebound of a Matt Dorsey attempt. It was the Vees netminder, Jack LaFontaine, that kept the game tight following the goal as made a number of huge saves, including a shorthanded breakaway.
Cassidy Bowes tied the game early in the second. Coming down the right wing into the Wild zone, Bowes let a wrist shot go from the circle that snuck under the right pad of Austin Park just 2:50 into the period.
The lead didn’t last long for Penticton as Cole Shepard lost the puck at his blue line skating out of the zone. It was grabbed by AJ Hodges who came in on a breakaway and fired the puck past the blocker of LaFontaine to restore the Wild lead.
The Vees goaltender was at it again in the middle frame, denying Josh Arnold on another shorthanded odd man rush, before sprawling out in the crease and robbing Arnold of what looked like a sure goal after another turnover.
The Vees had a power play early in the third period, but it lasted only 40 seconds before James Miller was called for hooking putting the game at four-on-four for 29 seconds. Shortly after that expired, Brandon Koch held the puck on the right wing boards before firing a bullet pass to Christophe Fillion, who snuck behind the defence, and redirected the puck into the top corner just 1:23 into the third to give them a 3-1 lead.
The Vees would battle back again and Eric Linell would cut it down to a one-goal game. After Miller flipped the puck in the air from centre, Bowes and Linell swarmed the Wild defender who was looking for the bouncing puck in the slot.
Bowes dug it free on the left wing before sliding it across to Linell who made no mistake, scoring his 17th of the season to make it 3-2.
That’s as close as the Vees would get, as the Wild scored another goal off a turnover to ice the game with eight and a half minutes to go. Mason Snell tried to skate up the middle of his own zone, but was surrounded by Wild forecheckers and lost the puck.
It ended up in the corner before the Wild centred the puck. LaFontaine made the initial save but the rebound was put home by Chad Sasaki. The win made it four consecutive for the Wild for the second time this month and moves them within two points of second place Merritt and three points behind the first place Vees.
The Vees will look to start another winning streak Friday night in the opener of a home and home with the Trail Smoke Eaters (11-13-4-2) at Cominco Arena. The teams will meet again on Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
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