Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Wenatchee defensemen step up on offense Tuesday in 6-4 loss to Spokane

Fluker’s first Wenatchee goal highlights push from Wild blueliners in U.S. Division battle

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WENATCHEE – The Spokane Chiefs built a two-goal lead three separate times in Tuesday’s Western Hockey League showdown with the Wenatchee Wild at Town Toyota Center. That minor detail made a major difference in helping the Chiefs collect a 6-4 win ahead of one of Wenatchee’s biggest road trips of the season.

Shea Van Olm scored a pair of goals to highlight the offense for Spokane as they held off one push after another from the Wild, with much of the scoring in Tuesday’s game coming from Wenatchee’s blue line.

Berkly Catton carved his way to the net for Spokane’s opening goal just 1:04 into the game, but a 2-on-1 rush into the Spokane zone allowed Rodzers Bukarts to hit Ty Fraser for a backdoor one-timer to tie it at 2:36. Chase Bertholet hit the top of the net to give the Chiefs another lead 4:26 into the game before the teams battled through an offensive stalemate the remainder of the period.

A Shea Van Olm slapshot at 6:36 of the second period gave the Chiefs a two-goal lead, but the Wild responded later in the period. With Dawson Seitz screening the goaltender, Steven Arp raced the puck down the left wing and hit Josh Fluker at the front of the net for his first goal in a Wild uniform with 6:58 left in the period, cutting the lead back to 3-2.

Rasmus Ekstrom threw a shot off of Brendan Gee that caromed into the cage with 30 seconds left on the clock for a 4-2 Spokane advantage, but Graham Sward sneaked a pass to Jonas Woo on the left wing for a tap-in to scale the lead back with 8:08 remaining. The Chiefs pulled away with a snap from Will McIsaac with 2:21 to play, and Van Olm’s second goal hit the empty net from the left point with 53.3 seconds left in the third period. Wenatchee got the final word with a power play goal from Sam Ward along the left-wing boards with 13.5 seconds remaining, cutting the final margin to two goals.

“I thought the guys showed a lot of character. In the third period, guys were banged up,” said assistant coach Andrew Sarauer. “We’ve got a lot of guys going down right now – the injury bug is hitting us a bit. We’re playing shorthanded, and guys who play a lot of minutes are out right now. I thought our younger guys stepped up, and I liked the way we played in the third period. Unfortunately, it was too late.”

Bukarts picked up a pair of assists for Wenatchee in the loss, while 10 other Wild skaters notched a point in the game. Evan Friesen went without a point, seeing a career-high 15-game scoring streak come to an end. Gee made 22 saves in a no-decision, with the loss going to Noah Stenvig, who made his Western Hockey League debut with 12 saves in relief.

Six Spokane players finished with multi-point showings, led by Van Olm’s two goals. Catton, McIsaac and Ekstrom each had a goal and an assist, while Dawson Cowan stopped 31 Wenatchee shots to earn his 14th win of the season. The Wild finished 1-for-2 on the power play and killed off both Spokane chances on the man-advantage, dropping to 28-23-4-0 with the loss. The Chiefs climbed to 23-26-4-1 with the win, wrapping up a stretch of four games in five nights.

Wenatchee heads on the road for a three-game swing through Alberta, beginning Friday against the Calgary Hitmen, with the opening puck drop at the Scotiabank Saddledome slated for 6 p.m. The Wild return home Wednesday, February 28 to face the Regina Pats. 

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