PHOTO: Wenatchee Wild defenseman Graham Sward lines up for a faceoff in a recent game in Kelowna, British Columbia. Sward posted three points to lead the Wild offense in a 6-3 win at the Prince George Cougars on Saturday. (Photo courtesy: Paige Bednorz)

Austin Draude, Wenatchee Wild Media Relations & Broadcast Manager

PRINCE GEORGE, British Columbia – The Wenatchee Wild came into Saturday’s Western Hockey League game against the Prince George Cougars having done everything necessary to pick up wins in a busy stretch to start the 2023-24 season. All that remained was to put all of those pieces together on a given night.

The Wild did just that to close out a weekend set at CN Centre, scoring a 6-3 win over the Cougars for their first road victory of the season. Wenatchee cleared away three of the home team’s power plays, and got three points apiece from Graham Sward and Easton Armstrong, who put the Wild ahead for good with less than a minute left in the second period.

Prince George got the game off to an ominous start, taking a 2-0 lead in the first 11 minutes of the game, with a goal on the rush from Ondrej Becher at 5:38 and a goal from Carlin DeZainde with two seconds left on a Cougar power play. Wenatchee responded in kind with a goal off the skates of Kenta Isogai in front of the Prince George net with 2:49 left in the period, cutting the lead to 2-1 at the break.

Wenatchee jumped in front in the second period, with a sharp-angle chance from Steven Arp tying the game 2:10 out of the intermission, followed by a redirect from Armstrong on Sward’s point shot six minutes later. However, Becher got the Cougars back on the board with 8:31 left in the period, firing home a wrist shot from the left wing to tie the game.

The Wild didn’t give an inch the rest of the way – with under a minute left in the second, Evan Friesen sprinted out of the penalty box and caught a stretch pass at the Cougar blue line, but was knocked down trying to set up a shot in the right-wing circle. Enter Armstrong again, who tossed the puck past Ty Young to give Wenatchee its first lead. Rodzers Bukarts rattled a shot around the top of the net for the 5-3 lead 4:16 into the third, and Friesen closed the night by tapping a shot into the empty Prince George net with eight seconds left.

“I thought we played a complete game tonight,” said associate head coach Chris Clark. “We played well in all aspects of the game, and we got contributions from everyone. Brendan Gee was excellent in net. We were very proud of our guys tonight.”

Bukarts’s goal gave the Wild some much-needed breathing room, scoring the team’s first insurance goal of the season, and Gee stopped 28 Cougar shots to earn his first victory in the Western Hockey League. Friesen added two assists to his game-ending tally, while Sward had three assists. Becher had two goals in the loss, while Viliam Kmec had a pair of assists as Prince George saw its five-game winning streak come to a halt.

Sward’s three points Saturday pushed him into the team scoring lead, posting nine points in five games since returning from the Nashville Predators’ preseason camp. Three of those outings were multi-point efforts, with at least one point in all five games.

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Wenatchee’s season-long eight-game road swing continues Sunday afternoon with a visit to the Kamloops Blazers. Sunday’s opening puck drop at Sandman Centre is scheduled for 4 p.m.  Pregame radio coverage starts at 3:45pm on NewsRadio 560KPQ and 101.7FM


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