PHOTO: Wenatchee Wild forward Garrett Szydlowski leaps out of the way of a shot in a recent home game. Szydlowski capped the scoring in his final regular-season junior hockey game Saturday, a 5-2 Wild win over the Trail Smoke Eaters. (Photo credit: Russ Alman/Digital Media Northwest

By Austin Draude Wenatchee Wild Media Relations & Broadcast Manager

WENATCHEE, Wash. – If the British Columbia Hockey League regular season consists of 54 quizzes spread over a six-month span, then that means the start of final exams for the Wenatchee Wild is now just a few days away. The Wild earned a passing grade in their final test of the 2022-23 campaign on Saturday night, taking an early lead on the way to a 5-2 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters at Town Toyota Center.

The victory secures a seventh-place finish in the BCHL Interior Conference standings and locks in a best-of-7 playoff date with the Cranbrook Bucks, starting next week.

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Wenatchee snagged the lead just 2:17 into the game, when Arvega Hovsepyan deflected David Hejduk’s blue-line one-timer past Keegan Maddocks for the opening goal of the night. Near the end of a four-minute power play, another tip led to another tally, this time off a shot from Mario Gasparini and a redirect from Micah Berger for a 2-0 Wild advantage just before the first period’s halfway mark. Wenatchee ended the first period with a 12-10 shots-on-goal advantage, but piled up the first eight shots on net in the game and scored on two of their first seven.

Trail trimmed the lead at the intermission to 2-1, with a one-timer from Brady Hunter on a Smoke Eater power play with just 42.4 seconds on the first-period clock.

The Wild stretched the lead back to a pair just 75 seconds into the second period, when Cade Littler pushed a pass to the top of the crease for Berger to bang in for a 3-1 margin. The third period got off to a dicey start, as Ethan Mann intercepted a chance at the top of the Trail zone before racing the puck the length of the ice and sending it past Andy Vlaha just 1:41 out of the break.

The hosts were able to breathe much more easily after the 11:50 mark of the third, when Christian Kim got a third-chance whack at the puck at the goal line. Hovsepyan and Michael Valdez each earned assists after getting their own initial chances to get the puck past Maddocks, and Wenatchee went up 4-2. Garrett Szydlowski capped his final regular-season junior hockey game by picking his way down the ice and curling in an empty-net goal with 88 seconds to play.

“It was obviously a much better start. We needed that start last night,” said Wild director of scouting and assistant coach Leigh Mendelson. “The guys came out and put last night behind us. We had a lot of energy and scored a couple of nice goals, and I thought we controlled the play for large parts of the game. I thought our puck possession and offensive zone play was much better tonight.”

Wenatchee ends its regular season at 28-23-1-2, while the Smoke Eaters’ regular season ends at 20-27-3-4. As the seventh seed in the Interior Conference playoffs, the Wild will face second-seeded Cranbrook in opening-round play, beginning next weekend. Live coverage throughout the playoffs is available on Newsradio 560 KPQ and BCHL TV. Single-game playoff tickets will go on sale Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. for the BCHL play

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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