Rage coach Scott Robinson describes the Wenatchee Wild as the “toughest team to score on in the world”.
Although that’s a bit of an exaggeration, at times it must feel like that playing against the most defensively-minded team of the 28 in the North American Hockey League.
Wenatchee, in town for games tonight, Friday and Saturday, is the only team in the Jr. A organization with a goals-against average in the double digits (87). The next closest team in that stat department is the Janesville Jets with 115, and most teams are somewhere closer to 150.
And to make the case even stronger, the last time the Wild were at the EnCana Events Centre in mid-January, the Washington State team denied their host a single goal and left town with 2-0, 4-0 and 3-0 wins. Not a single goal was scored on the Wild and that tight-fisted defence is part of the reason Wenatchee has climbed into second place in the West Division with a 29-15-6 record.
“You just have to be simple and patient against them. The one thing about their system is that you want to get a lead. If you can score the first one, they have to come out of what they are doing, and that is a key. But you have to be real patient against them and expect the score to be 3-2 or 2-1,” said Robinson.
The Rage are coming off a pair of losses to Fairbanks, the top team in the West. The Icedogs dumped the Rage 8-4 Friday, but 24 hours later surprised most observers and almost pulled off an upset. Instead, they ended up losing 2-1 after the visitors outshot them 17-3 in the third, scored the winner and dealt Dawson Creek its 35th loss of the season.
The Rage have known long ago they will not be playing beyond their final regular season game March 31 in Fairbanks. Despite the team’s 9-35-3 record and a lingering disappointment that the club was not better in its second season, there’s still a positive atmosphere in the dressing room, pointed out Rage forward Austin Adduono, who scored Saturday night.
“Everybody still has good spirits. Everyone still wants to get better and try and make an impression for next year. We will still come out here every night and try and do that and get as many wins as possible,” explained the former Thunder Bay resident.
This weekend’s three games will be the final opportunity Dawson Creek hockey fans have to see the local Jr. A team in the action this season. Although there are 10 more games left before the regular season ends in three weeks, this is the final home stand and will be marked by the team wearing “camou-jerseys”, which will be auctioned off after the final regular season home match Saturday.
“I know we don’t have a big military presence here, but it crosses over into hunters. If you want to go hunting with a Rage jersey on, it is good camouflage, and the jerseys will be auctioned off Saturday night,” said Robinson.