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Wild force a weekend split over Spruce Kings with 6-5 win in overtime

Vicki Brown photo

WENATCHEE – For the second consecutive night, the Prince George Spruce Kings battled back to force overtime, however, the Wenatchee Wild came out victorious this time around in overtime in a 6-5 final at the Town Toyota Center Saturday night.

Cade Littler finished the game as the top star for the night after tallying two goals, including the game-winner in overtime. Meanwhile, despite having to come in for relief, Owen Millward earned the win for the Wild between the pipes as he stopped 12 of 14 shots he faced.

In the opening period, the Spruce Kings found themselves in a hole early. Parker Murray scored twice within the first three minutes. Just 39 seconds into the game, Murray put one in past Fairlie with the Wild’s first shot of the game. Garrett Szydlowski and David Hejduk assisted on the opening goal.

A few short minutes later, Murray scored again. It marked his 16th of the season. Szydlowski registered another assist with Lucas Marshall also earning a helper at 2:13 as Wenatchee opened the game with a quick 2-0 lead.

Finding themselves behind, the Spruce Kings started to piece together some offence. Austin Fraser got Prince George on the board after Luca Primerano found the winger open in tight to the Wenatchee goal. Fraser slid the puck in past Andy Vlaha to cut into the deficit.

Before the period was out, the Spruce Kings were able to make it a tie game. Charlie Banquier, after stepping out of the penalty box, led a three-on-one as he stepped out of the box. Showcasing his patience, Banquier crept in close to the Wild net from the right wing before potting his fifth goal of the season. Kilian McGregor-Bennett and Kai Greaves assisted the play.

The game sat tied heading into the first intermission at 2-2.

In the second period, the Spruce Kings claimed their first lead of the game. Jake Schneider made it 3-2 at 4:07 of the middle frame after Jack Kurrle and Scott Cousins helped in setting up the scoring play. Wild coach Chris Clark made a change at goalie with Owen Millward coming in for relief of Vlaha.

Vlaha finished the night having played 24 minutes and allowing three goals on 20 shots.

After tallying two assists in the opening period, Szydlowski tried his hands on scoring and tied the game back up as the Wild answered back. The goal came at 12:26 of the period with assists coming from Ean Somoza and Parker Murray.

The game remained tied through the remaining time of the second period.

In the third period, Prince George product Scott Cousins entered the offensive zone with a two-on-one. Cousins eyes the pass before pulling the trigger on a wrist shot past Millward to put the Spruce Kings ahead 4-3.

A few minutes later, the Wild found themselves on the powerplay after Amran Bhabra was sent off to serve two minutes for interference. Cade Littler scored with the man advantage at 10:24. Micah Berger and Hejduk earned assists as the Wild knotted the game back up.

Just over a minute later, the clawed themselves ahead to get the lead back. Somoza sped in past the Spruce Kings defence to create a breakaway opportunity before he crashed the net and brought the puck to his forehand, tucking the puck in past Fairlie at 11:34 of the third period.

With time working against them, the Spruce Kings responded ahead of the final five minutes of regulation. Austin Fraser entered the zone along the right wing and snuck the puck inside the far post as Ty Gagno converged on the Wild net from the opposite wing. The goal tied the game up at 5-5 as the final minutes ticked away with the score remaining the same.

The game ended up going to an extra period of three-on-three hockey being played.

After the Spruce Kings created several potential scoring chances in overtime, the Wild needed just one shot to seal the win. Cade Littler was able to find a way to escape past a pair of Spruce Kings players, creating a two-on-one before shooting the puck in past Fairlie for the 6-5 win.

Prince George earned themselves a point with the overtime loss and a total of three points from the weekend as the two teams each had themselves an overtime win and loss.

The Spruce Kings now sit one point behind the West Kelowna Warriors in the Interior Division standings while the Wild gain some ground in the standings. The Wild sit in eighth place in the Interior Division, however, they are six points behind Prince George in fourth place.

Prince George will return home as they get ready for a weekend series against the league-leading Penticton Vees on January 6 and 7. The Spruce Kings are 0-2 against the Vees this season, however, this will be the first time they take on the Vees at home this season.

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