WENATCHEE — The Wild looked good in the first period but were completely outplayed over the final two as they fell 4-1 at the hands of the Interior leading Penticton Vees Friday night in front of 2,466 fans at Town Toyota Center.
And head coach Bliss Littler didn’t mince words postgame.
“They competed harder than us (and) that’s why they are in first place and we are towards the bottom,” Littler said. “We have some excuses, but unfortunately until you learn that every night you have to compete, this is what we get.”
The Wild were without starting netminder Daniel Chenard and winger Luke Ormsby, who continue to be on the mend with nagging injuries, but Littler didn’t think that had any impact whatsoever.
“It has nothing to do with not having (them) in the lineup, (Penticton) won the second and third period,” Littler said. “They won the battles for loose pucks and all the battles in front of the net. We have nice kids, but we have to battle and compete harder.”
On the plus side, Wenatchee native Matt Dorsey returned from a three-game absence and scored his third goal of the season midway through the first period.
But that was about the lone bright spot for the Wild. Vees forward Jackson Niedermayer leveled the score just before the end of the period and Penticton took over from there. Despite recording 12 shots on net in the first period, the Wild were limited to just eight over the final two periods compared to 25 shots for the Vees.
Vees alternate captain, Jay O’Brien, who’s the third leading point-getter in the BCHL, added more to his season tally with a pair of goals and an assist on the night. Both goals came in the second period, giving the Vees a two-goal lead heading into the third. Before O’Brien’s second goal, Wenatchee had a chance to tie the game after getting on the powerplay. But that notion was put to bed after Tyler Young committed an offensive-end holding penalty, creating a 4v4.
It was just one of those nights for the Wild.
Vees Lukas Sillinger padded the lead with Penticton’s fourth goal of the night just 20 seconds into the third period, sliding his shot through the legs of goalie Noah Altman, who stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced.
Fortunately, Wenatchee has a chance to erase this game from memory with a quick turnaround game against the Vees Saturday night.
“We get a chance to play better,” Littler said. “They are a well-coached hockey team and have a lot of pride in how they play, (we’re) trying to find ourselves and get better each week, but we’re learning that if you don’t compete at a certain level then you’ll get your tail kicked.”
Following Saturday’s game, the Wild head out on a five-game road trip over the next couple of weeks and won’t return for another home game until Monday, November 25 against the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Puck drops Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.