WENATCHEE — The Wild pushed their winning streak to five and moved into fourth place in the Interior Division after downing the visiting Vernon Vipers 5-2 Friday night at Town Toyota Center.
And the boys looked good, jumping all over Vernon early with a pair of goals — one following a long 5-on-3 powerplay and the other off a rebound stuffed home by defenseman Noah Lugli.
“I thought it was a good effort,” Wild head coach Chris Clark said after the win. “Through the last five games, it’s been by committee and everyone has been contributing. Ethan (Wolthers) pitched in with two goals tonight, we got two from the back end, the powerplay contributed when it needed to and we killed a lot of big penalties at big times. Overall, I’m very happy.”
Lugli put the Wild on top nine minutes into the first period. After drawing a pair of penalties on their forecheck, the Wild got on a 5-on-3 powerplay three minutes later. Just as the first penalty was ending, defenseman Dylan Herzog carried the puck into the slot and snapped a shot past the Vipers netminder to put Wenatchee up 2-0.
Vernon had a three or four good breakaway chances to try and pull back within one, but Daniel Chenard stoned them all. Chenard was on his game tonight, stopping 27 of 29 shots faced.
“Nardo made three or four big saves at the beginning for us,” Clark said. “We got a little scrambly there but Chenard set them aside and gave us a chance early.”
Vernon started to gain some momentum in the second period after Dawson Holt forced a turnover and scored to pull the Vipers back within a goal. But alternate captain Sam Morton, who finished with three points, squashed Vernon’s hopes with a short-handed goal three minutes later. Morton simply outworked the Vipers defender, nabbing the puck behind the net before twirling in front and backhanding a shot past netminder Reilly Herbst.
“He was buzzing for sure (tonight),” Clark said of Morton. “That short-handed goal was a big one. They were starting to make a push and but he popped the kid from behind and does a spin-o-rama backhand. It was a highlight-reel goal for sure.”
After Morton, Wolthers scored his fifth goal of the season, jamming in a breakaway goal after slashing past two Vernon defenders into the crease.
Holt added a second goal for Vernon late in the third period, but by then it was too late. Wolthers added his second goal of the evening on an empty-netter to seal the win.
With just a couple of weeks left in the regular season, the Wild have the potential to leap up another spot in the standings and lock up home-ice in the first round of playoffs with a few more wins.
“Everyone is pitching in and doing the little things,” Clark said. “We’ve put ourselves in a position to have home ice in the first round of the playoffs, which is huge. But no game is more important than the next one. We got Chilliwack (Saturday) and then we’ll figure out the best plan of attack against Salmon Arm.”
Saturday night is fan appreciation and bobblehead night. So, make sure you get to the rink early. It’s going to be packed for the Wild’s final regular-season game at home. Puck drops at 7:05 p.m.