PHOTO: Wenatchee Wild defenseman Graham Sward flashes a smile after scoring a goal with 1.3 seconds left in the second period Sunday. Vancouver held off a Wild comeback bid and earned a 6-2 victory in Western Hockey League play at Langley Events Centre. (Photo courtesy: Rob Wilton/Vancouver Giants)

Austin Draude Wenatchee Wild Media Relations & Broadcast Manager

LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Wenatchee Wild are continuing to check off the boxes in the early stages of the 2023-24 Western Hockey League season – however, earning the second win of the season and first on the road will have to wait one more week. In Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Giants, the Wild scored the opening goal of the game for the first time this season, but the Vancouver Giants held off a comeback bid for a 6-2 win at Langley Events Centre.

The effort was a balanced one for the Giants, with 12 different players scoring at least one point in the contest. Five Vancouver players finished the game with multi-point showings, led by Mazden Leslie with three assists.

Jonas Woo opened the scoring at 7:44 of the first period, dashing down the right wing before sending a wrist shot from the right-wing faceoff dot inside the back post for a 1-0 Wenatchee lead. Leslie helped the Giants tie the game with 8:05 left in the period, pitching a puck to the net from the left wing before getting an extra touch from Kyren Gronick to finish the play.

Vancouver grabbed the lead with Adam Titlbach’s one-timer goal at the 17:34 mark of the period, and Cameron Schmidt’s 4-on-4 goal on the rebound 49 seconds into the second period stretched the Vancouver lead to 3-1.

The Wild got one final rush into the Giants’ zone in the closing seconds of the middle stanza and took advantage of it – Hayden Moore earned his first junior point by setting up Graham Sward for a transition goal from the slot with 1.3 seconds left on the clock, sending Wenatchee to the locker room within one. Turner McIntyre earned his first WHL point as well, picking up the secondary assist.

However, two goals within a 36-second span in the third period helped Vancouver put the game away. Gronick scored again, sneaking one past Brendan Gee at the 8:09 mark of the period for a 4-2 lead, and Tyler Thorpe’s goal from the left edge of the slot at 8:45 extended the Giants’ lead to 5-2. Thorpe put the exclamation mark on the game by squeezing a goal past Gee with 2:08 left.

“We gave ourselves a chance, down a goal going into the third period,” said Wenatchee associate head coach Chris Clark. “In all three games (this weekend), we were in it all the way into the third period. That’s encouraging – that’s something we can definitely build off of. That (first goal) was nice, obviously a big way by Woo to get us on the board early, and another big goal by Sward at the end of the second to get us within one. We’re doing a lot of good things right now, that’s the encouraging part.”

Woo scored his first goal in a Wenatchee uniform after posting three with the Winnipeg ICE, while Miles Cooper held onto the team’s early-season scoring lead with an assist. Easton Armstrong celebrated a career milestone, appearing in his 150th WHL game. Gee took the loss in his junior debut with 30 saves, and Brett Mirwald stopped 28 Wild shots to earn his second win of the season for Vancouver.

Another three-in-three road weekend awaits the Wild next week, though the first two of those games will keep them in the same building against the Prince George Cougars. Friday’s game at CN Centre gets underway at 7 p.m., followed by a 6 p.m. puck drop Saturday. The Kamloops Blazers host Wenatchee Sunday afternoon, with live coverage of all three games on Newsradio 560 KPQ and WHL Live.

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