Wenatchee Wild captain AJ Vanderbeck celebrates after winning the Doyle Cup with a 7-2 victory over the AJHL Spruce Grove Saints.

Wenatchee Wild captain AJ Vanderbeck celebrates after winning the Doyle Cup with a 7-2 victory over the AJHL Spruce Grove Saints.

Wenatchee Wild wins Doyle Cup, off to national championship

BCHL champs Wenatchee Wild booked its spot in the RBC Cup with a Game 5 victory over Spruce Grove

The Wenatchee Wild booked its spot into the Royal Bank Cup Tournament on Friday and will compete for the National Championship in Chilliwack starting Saturday.

The Wild combined a punishing physical presence along with a relentless assault to post a convincing 7-2 victory over the AJHL champion Spruce Grove Saints.

Wenatchee’s August Von Ungern-Sternberg fired in the game winner when he poked a neutral-zone pass towards the Saints zone, chased it down and rifled a top corner shot sending the water bottle into orbit for a 3-2 lead.

With the Game 5 victory, the Wild claim the Doyle Cup (Pacific Region championship) with a 4 games to 1 series win.

The pace was brisk and the hits were plenty from the outset, and Josh Arnold fired the opening salvo, a backhander set up first by a pass from Matt Dorsey to Sam Hesler, then Hesler to Arnold for the 1-0 lead at 15:45. Ten seconds later, Logan Ganie tied it up for the Saints, but :36 seconds after that, Sam Morton muscled his way through two defenders to slip a low shot by Nolan Kent to retake the lead, which stood at the end of the first.

Spruce Grove tied it back up exactly 60 seconds into the middle frame as Logan Ganie benefited from a defensive zone turnover and a 2-on-0 break.

After Von Ungern-Sternberg put the Wild up 3-2, the air left the building at 14:01 when AJ Vanderbeck went end-to-end, dangling through the neutral zone and drilling his signature heavy wrister home for a 4-2 lead. Before the period expired, a quick transition pass from Cooper Zech to Hesler spawned a 2-on-1 rush, with Hesler dishing to Matt Dorsey for the slick backhand finish and 5-2 lead after two.

The third period featured a lot of shutdown hockey, with the Wild adding two more to the heap. The first, a power play goal by Jasper Weatherby from the lower left circle, ripped high blocker side and assisted by a slick pass from Cooper Zech. With the Wild shorthanded a minute later, the Saints opted to pull the goalie and try to salvage the series, but Zech saucered a pass from deep in his own zone that sailed on the fly into the abandoned net for the 7-2 final.

The Wild outshot Spruce Grove 38-31.

Wenatchee defeated the Trail Smoke Eaters in five games in the Interior Division final, then dispatched the Prince George Spruce Kings in five to win the BCHL Fred Page Cup championship.

The Royal Bank Cup Tournament takes place May 12-20 in Chilliwack. Wenatchee will open their tournament schedule on Saturday May 12 at 7 p.m. against the host team, the Chilliwack Chiefs.

Since the Doyle Cup was introduced, the BCHL has won 16 of 25 championships. Vernon (BCHL) has won the most titles with six, followed by the Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL) with four. Penticton and Surrey are the only other B.C. teams to have won multiple Doyle Cups.

The teams that have advanced to the RBC Cup are the Wellington Dukes and the Ottawa Jr. Senators. The West Region Championship, Anavet Cup, has yet to be determined. The SJHL champion Nipawin Hawks and the MJHL champs Steinbach Pistons played Game 6 of their series on Monday with Steinbach leading the series 3-2. The score was unavailable at press time.