PHOTO: Wenatchee Wild goaltender Andy Vlaha (center) looks toward the play in a recent home game. Vlaha stopped all 34 shots he saw Saturday in a 5-0 win at the Cranbrook Bucks, evening Wenatchee’s playoff series with Cranbrook at a game apiece. (Photo credit: Russ Alman/Digital Media Northwest)

Story by Austin Draude Wenatchee Wild media relations and broadcast manager

CRANBROOK, British Columbia – All the Wenatchee Wild needed during their weekend trip to British Columbia was one win to flip their Interior Conference quarterfinal series with the Cranbrook Bucks and retake home-ice advantage. That win came in resounding fashion on Saturday night, as the Wild got a pair of Cade Littler goals and a 34-save shutout from Andy Vlaha to even their best-of-seven pairing at a game apiece with a 5-0 victory at Western Financial Place.

After a scoreless first period between the teams on Friday, Littler needed a little more than four minutes to break the seal on the net in Saturday’s game, sneaking a shot over Nathan Airey’s left shoulder from one knee to put the Wild in front. In the second period, Wenatchee needed even less time to add to the lead – just 1:43 out of the break, Garrett Szydlowski redirected a blue-line one-timer from Noah Jones to double the Wild advantage.

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Cranbrook was never able to make a move to get back into the game – just before the eight-minute mark of the third, the Wild made it a 3-0 game when Lucas Marshall’s shot from the left wing was blocked right to Micah Berger, who turned and tossed it past Airey from just outside the slot.

The teams combined to kill off the first nine power plays of the weekend, but the streak would end there – Littler’s second goal came with 5:27 remaining, weaving through the traffic near the left post before tucking the puck into the net for a 4-0 advantage. Parker Murray capped the scoring with an empty-net goal along the point wall with 2:54 to go.

“I thought tonight, we had everybody going,” said Wenatchee head coach Chris Clark. “We got contributions from absolutely everybody, whether it was offensively, defensively, forechecking, backchecking, blocking shots. We played to our identity tonight, and you can see that when we do that, we have success. That’s hopefully something that we can learn again, that we have to play that way all the time. I was proud of the effort from our guys to battle back, and this is not an easy building to win in. To win the way we did, that was exciting.”

In addition to Littler’s two goals, Berger finished the night with a goal and an assist, and Jones closed out the evening with a pair of helpers of his own. Airey made 32 saves in the loss for Cranbrook, while Vlaha blanked the Bucks for his first shutout since March 25, 2022 against the Trail Smoke Eaters. The special-teams performance was almost perfect for the Wild in this game, scoring on one of their two power plays on the night and wiping away all five Cranbrook chances.

The teams continue their first-round set Tuesday evening in Wenatchee in the third game of their series – the opening puck drop at Town Toyota Center is scheduled for 6 p.m., with live coverage available on Newsradio 560 KPQ and BCHL TV.

Single-game tickets for Games 3 and 4 of the series in Wenatchee and playoff packages for the full Wild playoff run are on sale now.  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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