WENATCHEE — Wenatchee spent all of Saturday night battling from behind. Finally, in the third period and when time was running short, it summoned enough offense to tie the contest 3-3. But it couldn’t complete the comeback and dropped 4-3 against Fresno in a shootout.
The Wild (26-6-4 overall) outshot Fresno (12-19-5 overall) on Friday and Saturday, but it didn’t matter. The NAHL West-leading team left the weekend empty-handed and frustrated. It didn’t lead once the entire weekend.
The Wild outshot Fresno 44-26 Saturday and 86-52 on the weekend.
“We didn’t make them work real hard for their goals,” coach Bliss Littler said. “They were opportunistic: That’s their recipe.”
The Monsters’ first goal came on a two-on-one scenario, their second goal came after a turnover and their third regulation goal happened during a line change while one member of the away team chased down the puck.
“Those goals didn’t require much work,” Littler said.
Things didn’t go well in the shootout, either.
Fresno converted on its first try and followed that up with another conversion on the third attempt. The game ended after Wenatchee couldn’t come up with a score on any of its first three attempts and Fresno converted a third goal,
It was a disheartening way to finish the weekend, especially considering the sheer number of scoring opportunities the home team generated.
“We played well enough tonight that it should’ve been a 5-1 game,” Littler said. “But give them credit.”
Fresno’s Haight Macauley had an answer for everything the Wild threw his way.
He made saves across his body, stopped everything that came from straight ahead and in his periphery. He made a number of impressive stops, and that caused problems for the high octane Wenatchee team. He finished the night with 41 saves and kept the Wild scoreless in the first period, despite their 13 scoring opportunities to the Monsters’ two after the first period.
But the Wild kept firing and eventually broke through. Macauley stopped the initial shot, but couldn’t clear the danger. Jono Davis capitalized on the second chance and zipped the puck into the back of the net.
Fresno answered that with its second goal of the night shortly after. The Wild evened it up again in a similar fashion when Macauley blocked the first shot, but was pushed back into the net by Davis to make it 2-2. Again, the team couldn’t sustain the tie, let alone build from it.
Robert Nichols, who subbed in to relieve Nick Schmidt after he gave up the first two scores of the night, gave up a goal less than a minute after Davis’ goal.
The Wild’s final score in regulation came from Nathan Flynn off a crisp pass from Nicholas Kuchera with four and a half minutes left in regulation.
Although Wenatchee gave itself a number of opportunities to win the game, it couldn’t make enough of a run to get the victory.
Needless to say, Littler was less than thrilled with the way his team finished out the weekend. The first year coach said his team, which was coming off back-to-back shutouts against Fresno, didn’t show the Monsters enough respect.
“We’re going to pay for it on Monday, I’ll promise you that,” Littler said.
Fresno 3, Wenatchee 1 (Friday)
The Wild produced plenty of scoring opportunities Friday against Fresno, but had just one goal to show for the effort. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to win.
Wenatchee endured a night of tough breaks, faced tenacious goaltending and fell 3-1 to the Monsters.
“It was frustrating,” assistant coach Tom Rudrud said. “We’ve had a couple of guys that haven’t been putting the puck in the net like they’re accustomed to, and I think that led to more frustration.”
The Wild gave up their first goal midway through the first period on a power play, but answered that with a score of their own from Davis two minutes into the third period to tie the contest 1-1.
A costly turnover during a power play put Fresno ahead 2-1 just a few minutes after Davis’ goal, and Wenatchee was unable to respond. Trailing 3-1, it created another solid scoring opportunity with five minutes left, but couldn’t capitalize.
The Wild outshot Fresno 42-26, but came up empty-handed time and time again, in part because of the tentative goal keeping by the Monsters’ Tomas Sholl, who finished the night with 41 saves.
“I was told a long time ago, in a 60-game season, you win about 85 percent of the games you deserve to win,” Rudrud said. “You win about 15 percent of the games you’re not supposed to win. And unfortunately, you come up short in a couple games you’re supposed to win.”
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