WENATCHEE – Friday’s opponent for the Wenatchee Wild is at the bottom of the Western Hockey League standings, but right now, they’re the team that few want to play.
The Kamloops Blazers used strong goaltending and plenty of “puck luck” to snag a 4-1 win over the Wild in the final meeting of the 2023-24 season and earn their fifth win in their last six games. Kamloops goaltender Dylan Ernst stopped 37 of Wenatchee’s 38 shots in the game to pick up his 10th win of the season. The first-ever season series between the teams ended in a draw, with each team picking up two wins, including one in overtime.
Kamloops was on the board first, taking advantage of their first power play of the game with a one-timer from Jordan Keller – his shot trickled through and spun on the goal line for Ashton Ferster to punch in with 5:43 left in the opening period. Emmitt Finnie ripped a shot in transition from the right wing just over two minutes later to make it a 2-0 game.
While Kamloops enjoyed plenty of puck luck in the game, Wenatchee took advantage of a favorable bounce 5:33 into the second – Briley Wood raced the puck down the right wing and slid it to the net, getting a long carom off of Ernst’s pads, where Evan Friesen was able to bang in the second chance for a 2-1 game.
The Wild nearly went to the second intermission within a goal, but Keller wrapped the puck around the post and jammed it underneath goaltender Daniel Hauser with a minute to play in the period – after a lengthy review, the goal stood and the Blazers returned to the dressing room with a two-goal lead. They added only an empty-net marker in the third, when a Wenatchee pass to the top of the offensive zone escaped and slid down into the Wild net. As the last Kamloops player to touch the puck, Logan Bairos was credited with the goal.
“I thought we played pretty well,” said head coach Roy Sommer. “I’m usually pretty honest in my assessment, and the puck just wasn’t dropping for us. We had a lot of good looks and a lot of quality chances, and we just didn’t capitalize. The effort was there, we moved pucks well – we deserved a better fate. Their goalie was good.”
Finnie led the scoring for Kamloops with a goal and two assists, while Keller and Bairos notched a goal and an assist apiece. The Blazers finished 1-for-3 on the power play and stopped all three Wild power plays, winning the shots-on-goal battle 42-38 as well. Kamloops bumped its record for the season to 14-28-3-2 with the victory.
Friesen reached the 40-point plateau for the season with his goal, extending his point-scoring streak to nine games. Wood pushed his streak to a career-best 12 straight games with a point, while Kenta Isogai picked up the secondary assist on Friesen’s marker to earn a point in his 11th straight outing. Hauser was tagged with the loss despite making 38 saves as the Wild moved to 27-17-4-0 on the year.
Wenatchee’s road trip continues Sunday with a visit to the Everett Silvertips. The opening puck drop at Angel of the Winds Arena is scheduled for 4:05 p.m., with live coverage on Newsradio 560 KPQ and WHL Live.
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