Kootenay Wild forward Reece Hunt bears down on the Vancouver Comets goal.

Kootenay Wild push for playoff run

The Female Midget AAA Kootenay Wild hockey team is looking strong despite dropping three games to the Vancouver Comets on the weekend.

The BC Female Midget AAA Kootenay Wild were disappointed by three losses on the weekend, but the J. L. Crowe High Performance team has to be encouraged by a strong showing in all three contests against the league’s top team.

The Greater Vancouver Comets shut out the Wild in a tight-checking 1-0 match on Friday, before skating to 5-1 and 4-1 victories on Saturday and Sunday respectively at the Cominco Arena.

“This team, the Comets, are so strong and deep, they have four strong lines, strong goaltending, and they’re at the top of the league for a reason,” said Kootenay Wild assistant coach Darcy Caron. “But I have to praise our girls, they never gave up, and Kaitlyn Daly our goalie was absolutely unbelievable … they worked right to the end, and I’m proud of them.”

In Sunday’s match, the Comets Darcy Johal scored at 14:09 of the first period to put Vancouver up 1-0, but the Wild fought back and Kelsey Patterson notched her league-leading 15th goal of the season, converting a setup from Reece Hunt and Lydia MacLellan to tie it at 1-1. The Comets struck back and goals from Stephanie Wallace and Michaela Read before the period was out gave the visitors a 3-1 lead heading into the middle frame.

The Wild had their chances in the second period but couldn’t beat Vancouver goalie Brooke Vial, or capitalize on four power-play opportunities, as the score remained 3-1 heading into third. The Comets defence locked down the talented Wild forwards in the final frame, keeping their shots to the perimeter, while the Wild’s netminder Daly kept the game close making several stellar saves throughout the final two periods.

Midway through the third, the Comets’ Natalie Dolhanty fired in a rebound off the post past Daly to complete the scoring in the 4-1 victory.

Daly was indeed impressive in net for Kootenay stopping 58 shots as Vancouver outshot the Wild 62-19. Vancouver sit comfortably in top spot with a 26-1-0 record, while Kootenay holds down fourth place but will look to rise in the standings in the final two weeks of the season.

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“Take away the Comets out of the equation, any team can win,” said Caron. “We’re a couple points out of third right now, so we have two big weekends coming up here.”

The Wild are chasing the third place Northern Capitals, currently five points ahead of Kootenay, while the Wild have a three-point advantage over the Vancouver Island Seals for fourth spot. With wins against the Thompson-Okanagan Lakers this weekend, the fight for the higher seed may come down to the final weekend of the season when the Capitals visit Trail.

In Saturday’s game, the Wild’s Abby Wester tied the game at 1-1 with 7:40 to play in the middle frame, but the Comets’ Johal scored less than two minutes later to give Vancouver a 2-1 lead heading into the third, where they scored three unanswered with points-leader Jenn Gardiner scoring twice and Dohanty once in the period for a 5-1 victory.

In Friday’s match, Dohal’s marker at 12:38 of the first period was the lone goal as the goaltenders took over in a 1-0 Comets’ victory.

The 7-12-5 Kootenay Wild’s record is an marked improvement from recent years, and is the most since the 2012-13 season when the team registered nine victories. The top two teams will get a bye in the first round of playoffs, with the third seed playing sixth seed, and fourth and fifth seeds facing off against each other.

“If we compete and steal some points, we’ll end up in third or fourth and have home-ice advantage in the playoffs, so it’s important … we have to maintain fourth for sure.”

Kootenay forwards Hunt, Patterson, and Emma Wheeldon are in the top-10 of league scoring, with Hunt in third place with 12 goals, 11 assists, and 23 points, and Patterson right behind her with 15-6-21, and Wheeldon tied for ninth with 6-12-18. Kootenay has the tools to go deep in the playoffs, and with solid goaltending and tough defence, Caron is optimistic heading down the home stretch.

“I’ve coached the Wild for a lot of years, and what an improvement this year,” said Caron. “For us to compete and be in fourth spot right now is big for us. We haven’t accumulated a lot of wins in the past, especially the last couple years. We’re playing well as a team. We have a lot of talent, our top-two lines are rolling, and the third line is dedicated for other tasks and playing excellent, everyone plays a big part on this team.”

The Wild travels to Vernon this weekend for a three-game set against the Lakers at Kal Tire Place, before returning for a home-stand versus the Northern Capitals at the Beaver Valley Arena Mar. 4-6.

 

 

 

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