Friday, February 23, 2024

Giants flip script after strong Wenatchee start, Wild fall 7-2 Saturday

Friesen bumps career-best scoring run to 13 games as Wenatchee builds early lead

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LANGLEY, BC – With two goals in the opening 12 minutes of Saturday’s Western Hockey League game at Langley Events Centre, the Wenatchee Wild had designs on breaking their early-February cold spell.

The Vancouver Giants broke the seal on the Wild net in the first period before breaking a stalemate in the second period, and breaking free in the third, on the way to a 7-2 win. Wenatchee dropped to 27-21-4-0 for the season, while the Giants reached the .500 mark at 24-24-3-0, continuing a torrid run with wins in seven of their last eight games, and points in the Western Conference standings in all eight.

Hayden Moore was the first to get on the board for the Wild just 2:15 into the game, rushing the puck to the net and jamming it underneath Vancouver goaltender Brett Mirwald. A review revealed that the puck had been trapped under one of Mirwald’s pads, which the goaltender had backed into the net, carrying the puck with it for a good goal. With 8:05 left in the period, Jonas Woo dashed the puck down the right wing and crossed it toward the net, where Evan Friesen was waiting to tuck the puck just inside the back post for a 2-0 Wenatchee lead.

The Giants climbed back into the game from there, starting with 5:26 left in the period on a transition goal from Connor Levis. With 1:35 left in the period, Levis found Kyren Gronick on the back post for a one-timer, and Gronick punched it in to send the teams to the dressing room tied 2-2. Ty Halaburda broke the tie with 8:41 left in the second period, collecting a turnover at the Wild blue line and sending a backhand shot through to take the lead.

Vancouver posted its final four goals in the last 20 minutes, starting at 5:49, when Levis pulled the puck to his backhand on a breakaway and tossed it in for a 4-2 lead. Matthew Edwards trickled a shot through for a three-goal margin just 43 seconds later. Jaden Lipinski walked the puck above the goal line for a face-and-fire goal with 5:05 remaining, and a final redirect from Gronick with 1:40 left sealed the final five-goal margin.

“The first 15 minutes, I thought we dominated them,” said Wild head coach Roy Sommer. “After that, costly errors on our part made it 2-2, but we were still in the game going to the third. Turnovers, which have been our nemesis, turned it into a 7-2 game. It definitely wasn’t the outlook we wanted, but other teams in our division lost. We’ve just got to get back at it again on Wednesday.”

Gronick and Levis each had two goals and an assist to lead the Vancouver offense, followed by Halaburda with a goal and assist, with Gronick’s second goal coming midway through the Giants’ only power play of the night. The penalty kill also kept the Wild off the scoreboard on three chances. Mirwald made 28 saves to earn his 21st win of the season.

Moore scored in his second straight game, while Friesen notched his fifth straight game with a goal, plus a shootout winner on January 28 against Prince George. His 13-game point-scoring streak ranks second on the Wild roster this season. Brendan Gee stepped into the net Saturday, taking the loss with 20 saves on 27 chances and falling to 10-5-1 on the year. The Wild also faced several absences on the ice, with lineup regulars Ashton BrownKarter Prosofsky and Daniel Hauser all battling injuries and unable to suit up.

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