WENATCHEE — The Wild are in for a big weekend with the Interior leading Penticton Vees (16-3-1) coming in for a two-game set Friday and Saturday night at Town Toyota Center, closing out Wenatchee’s four-game homestand.
Wenatchee is riding a two-game winning streak after beating Merritt twice this past weekend, but the Wild are going to have their hands full against the Vees.
“I think Penticton is from top-to-bottom the deepest team in the league and their record definitely shows that,” Wild head coach Bliss Littler said Wednesday. “Some of our younger guys are starting to pop and starting to learn how to get through the league and when you play some of the better teams, it’s a good measuring stick. We know we’re going to have to bring our A-game.”
Wenatchee fell to Penticton 5-3 last month on the road, and though they will be without starting netminder Daniel Chenard and likely rightwinger Luke Ormsby and Wenatchee native Matt Dorsey the other rookies have been starting to come around over the past few weeks.
Nick Cafarelli, Tyler Young and Brett Chorske – the Wild’s top point-getters – all rank within the top four of the BCHL in rookie scoring and backup goalie Noah Altman has won three of his last four games.
“It’s put Altman in a tough spot but he’s growing every time he gets to play and he is getting better,” Littler said. “I think (Cafarelli, Young and Chorske) no doubt are offensively gifted players and again they are starting to come in their own.”
“It’s just reps and playing 5v5 against another teams’ top two lines and being a plus player. They have been outstanding in the powerplay we’re just trying to get more consistency. But without the veterans up-front, those guys are getting to play in situations more first-year guys don’t get. We’re trying to keep the offense there and get better defensively and I think they are doing that. It’s not a quick process and this league is not forgiving.”
After the first two months, Wenatchee ranks middle-of-the-pack in the BCHL with 24 points and currently sit fifth in the Interior. But the Wild are just five points back of the Trail Smoke Eaters for third. They could make a big leap over the next couple of weeks with three straight games against Penticton and two against Salmon Arm.
The overall goal though is just to improve every day.
“Where we are at, our focus is getting better each week,” Littler said. “We’ll get the holiday break and then shoot for home ice in the first round of playoffs. If we have a step back we’ll just have to regroup. We can’t let it weigh on us. I think right now, Penticton, Salmon Arm and Trail are at a different level than the rest of the teams in the division, but it will be a good battle for the fourth and fifth spots. We’ll get to the holidays and see where we are at for the stretch run at the end.”
For this weekend’s games, the keys for Littler will be staying out of the penalty box.
“If we can do that, take care of the puck and play in their end our chances will increase,” Littler said. “They have a skilled group and a lot of experience, it will be a great test for us.”
Puck drops Friday and Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.