PHOTO: Wenatchee Wild forward Ean Somoza looks to settle the puck in a recent home game against the Cranbrook Bucks. Somoza had a goal and an assist Sunday as the Wild knocked the Bucks out of the British Columbia Hockey League playoffs with a 4-2 win at Town Toyota Center. (Photo credit: Russ Alman/Digital Media Northwest)

By Austin Draude Wenatchee Wild Media Relations and Broadcast Manager

WENATCHEE, Wash. – The Wenatchee Wild and Cranbrook Bucks squared off seven times during the 2022-23 regular season, but the teams were able to avoid a seven-game series in the opening round of the British Columbia Hockey League postseason. The Wild earned a 4-2 victory over the Bucks on Easter Sunday at Town Toyota Center, taking their Interior Conference quarterfinal series four games to two and closing out the campaign for the second-seeded Bucks.

The Wild got out to a solid start, with Ean Somoza hurling a shot from the high slot past Cranbrook goaltender Nathan Airey just 3:37 into the contest to put the hosts in front. Arvega Hovsepyan doubled the Wenatchee lead just before the five-minute mark of the second period, sneaking a chance off the back of Airey’s skate – the puck would just creep over the goal line and the advantage went to 2-0.

The Bucks would make sure the lead did not hold – after a drive into the Wenatchee zone from Jaden Fodchuk, Luke Pfoh tossed in a chance from the front of the net at 9:22 of the second period to cut into the Wild advantage. Cranbrook tied the contest with 5:58 left in the period when Jack Silich took advantage of an odd carom off the entry door in the corner, bringing the puck back in front of Vlaha and throwing it into the net for the tying tally.

The third period belonged to Wenatchee, starting with a 2-on-1 goal from Parker Murray at 2:51 of the period to take a 3-2 lead. With the Wild on the penalty kill, Luke Weilandt cleared the puck over the blue line before Cade Littler drove the puck to the and sent home a forehand chance with 2:31 remaining.

“It was a heck of an effort, especially in the third (period), once we got the lead,” said Wenatchee assistant coach Leigh Mendelson. “We probably blocked eight or 10 shots in the last seven minutes. It’s what you have to do to win. It was a really gutsy effort.”

Somoza had the evening’s only multi-point showing with a goal and an assist. The Bucks enjoyed more than their share of scoring chances in the contest, but Vlaha was certainly up to the task, stopping 35 of 37 Cranbrook shots for his fourth postseason win while Airey took the loss with 21 saves. The penalty-killing units were exceptional again, combining to go 5-for-5 as Wenatchee ends the series 22-for-23 on the kill along with Littler’s shorthanded goal. Murray wraps up the series with a dozen goals, cementing a new team record in that category and becoming only the second Wild player ever to score a goal in six straight playoff games.

With the Interior Conference quarterfinal in the books, the seventh-seeded Wild square off next with the top-seeded Penticton Vees in a best-of-seven Interior Conference semifinal series. Live coverage throughout the playoffs is available on NewsRadio 560 KPQ and BCHL TV. Single-game playoff tickets will go on sale early this week for the first two Wild home games in the series.

Updated news and information on Wild hockey are always available through the team’s website and on the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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