The Wenatchee Wild faced a tough task Sunday afternoon as they played their second game of the 2018 RBC Cup tournament.
Just 16 hours after beating the Chilliwack Chiefs 2-1 in overtime Saturday night, the Wild had to get their legs moving again in an afternoon game against the Manitoba champion Steinbach Pistons.
Wenatchee sucked it up and, carried by the star power of Jasper Weatherby and AJ Vanderbeck, overcame an ugly start to record a 4-3 win at Prospera Centre.
Wild goaltender Austin Park was a big part of that ugly start, getting the hook just 5:06 in after giving up two goals on four shots.
The first came off the stick of Luke Bellerose, set up by Brady Tatro. Tatro earned the assist with a hot shot that Park couldn’t absorb. Bellerose caught up to the rebound as it caromed off to the right and slipped a sharp-angle shot through the legs of the Wenatchee keeper, who was late sliding across to his post.
One hundred and 53 seconds later, Steinbach forward Austin Heidemann took a lead pass from Bradley Schoonbaert, flew into the Wild zone, skated wide around D-man Slava Demin and snuck another five-hole shot through Park.
Into the game came Seth Eisele, not seen since game one of Wenatchee’s second round BCHL playoff series versus Vernon.
Eisele was both good and lucky as he shook off nearly two months worth of rust. Good making point-blank stops on Heidemann and Drew Worrad. Lucky when Steinbach forward Jack Johnson went end-to-end and split the Wild D, only to have the puck roll off his stick at the end.
Wenatchee started to push back late in the opening frame, and cut the lead in half with a last-minute snipe by Weatherby.
The Lummi Island native started his own scoring play with some good mucking on the forecheck behind the Piston net. The 19 year old looped into the high slot, collected a pass from linemate Vanderbeck and went crossbar and in with a lazer shot.
The BCHL MVP was at it again in the first minute of period two, tying the game just 21 seconds in.
Vanderbeck created a turnover steps inside the Steinbach blueline and flipped the puck ahead to Weatherby, who dangled his way past Pistons D-man Darby Gula and cut across the goal-mouth, sliding a backhand shot inside the right post.
The Weatherby line tilted the rink for the rest of the middle frame, and the Wild outshot Steinbach 15-4, but the efforts of goalie Matthew Thiessen helped the Pistons escape to the intermission in a 2-2 tie.
Steinbach restored their lead early in period three on a goal by Daniel McKitrick.
Defenceman Mark Wilson earned an assist, directing a wrist shot toward the net from the point. The puck hit traffic in front and found the stick of Tyson McConell, who put a backhand pass across the goal-mouth for McKitrick to bury. But Steinbach’s happiness lasted just 87 seconds before a Zak Galambos power play goal, set up by Weatherby, tied it up once more.
Wenatchee grabbed the winning goal at 7:31 off the stick of Vanderbeck, who beat Thiessen with a slap shot rocket from the top of the right faceoff circle.
With time winding down in the game and his team down by one, Steinbach bench boss Paul Dyck was never able to get his goalie to the bench. Thiessen was looking to come off and even made it as far as the bench with 20 seconds to play, but no one came over the boards to replace him and he scrambled back into his cage.
He was still in the net when the final whistle blew.
Wenatchee’s Player of the Game was Weatherby and Steinbach’s was Heidemann.
The RBC Cup continues tonight (Sunday) at 7 pm as Chilliwack plays the Ottawa Jr. Senators.