Trail Takes Pivotal Matchup With Wenatchee Wild
PHOTO: Wenatchee Wild forward Cade Littler (15) plays the puck against Trail’s Nick Remissong in a recent home game. Littler scored a goal and an assist in a 5-2 loss to the Smoke Eaters Friday at Town Toyota Center. (Photo credit: Russ Alman/Digital Media Northwest)
By Austin Draude Wenatchee Wild Media Relations and Broadcast Manaager
WENATCHEE, Wash. – With four teams separated by a single point, the Wenatchee Wild knew the formula to reach home-ice advantage in the British Columbia Hockey League playoffs meant, first and foremost, taking care of business in their final two games of the regular season Friday and Saturday against the Trail Smoke Eaters. Locked into their eighth-place spot in the standings, the Smoke Eaters knew they still had a chance to influence the playoff race by picking up some points of their own.
Trail picked up a pair of them Friday night, using a two-minute stretch of the first period to take control on the way to a 5-2 win at Town Toyota Center. Their victory locks the Wild into either a sixth- or seventh-place finish, depending on the results of Saturday’s game between the Wild and Smoke Eaters, and the Vernon Vipers’ matchup with the Merritt Centennials.
A stretch pass through neutral ice helped the Smoke Eaters break out for their first goal, a Mathieu Cobetto-Roy marker 76 seconds into the contest. However, Micah Berger slid a shot past Teagan Kendricks at the 5:37 mark of the first to tie the game at 1-1.
The first period hinged on that 120 seconds, starting with a second-chance goal from Brady Hunter on the penalty kill with 4:59 remaining. The Smoke Eaters would kill off that penalty, a cross-checking call against Ethan Willoughby, before Nick Remissong’s one-timer pushed the lead to 3-1 with 3:38 showing on the first-period clock. The final goal of the stretch came at the 17:01 mark, a right-wing one-timer from Evan Bushy just 16 seconds into the first Trail power play of the night.
Wenatchee was far from out of it, though – Cade Littler took a pass on the back post and jammed in a chance at 8:43 of the third to shrink the lead to 4-2. However, Josh Schenk broke himself loose in the final seconds and jogged the puck into the empty net for the final Smoke Eaters goal with 23 seconds remaining.
“Trail did a great job tonight,” said Wild director of scouting and assistant coach Leigh Mendelson. “They played with a purpose and made us work for everything. David (Hejduk) went back for a lot of pucks and broke us out clean. He was strong, and he competed.”
Littler had a goal and an assist in the game to highlight the Wild offense, while Hunter and Cobetto-Roy each had a goal and an assist for Trail. The Smoke Eaters wrapped up the night 1-for-4 on the power play, wiping away all three Wenatchee chances as well. Kendricks made 35 saves for the victory, while Andy Vlaha took the loss for the hosts behind a 20-save performance.
Wenatchee drops to 27-23-1-2 with the loss, while the Smoke Eaters’ win pushes them to 20-26-3-4 with a game to go for both teams in the regular season. The teams battle it out for the last time in 2022-23 on Saturday night, with the opening puck drop at Town Toyota Center slated for 6:05 p.m. Live coverage is available on NewsRadio 560 KPQ and BCHL TV.
Saturday’s game is Wenatchee’s Fantastic FANale Night presented by Ag Supply, including a bobblehead giveaway to the first 1,000 fans in the building and prizes throughout the game. Updated news and information on Wild hockey are always available through the team’s website and on the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.