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PHOTO: Austin Park and the Wild won Game 3 in Trail on Tuesday night to take a 3-0 series lead.
CREDIT: Jim Bailey / Trail Times

by Arch Ecker

Wild goalie Austin Park turned in a stellar performance aided by a solid defensive effort in front of him to fend off a tremendous push from the Trail Smoke Eaters in the third period as Wenatchee posted a 2-1 win on Tuesday night at Cominco Arena in Trail, BC to go up 3-0 in the best-of-seven Interior Conference Final Series.

The opening period was brisk and saw both sides generate opportunities with over 2,500 fans creating a buzz. The best one may well have been a Kale Howarth breakaway that Park turned aside as Howarth attempted to deke and go five-hole. Still, it was Trail who scored first as Spencer McLean fired a wrister from the left circle in the opening period to get the Smoke Eaters on the board. The Wild tied it up on a gorgeous play that saw AJ Vanderbeck saucer a pass over to Lucas Sowder as they entered the zone, then Sowder fired a pass back across that Vanderbeck tipped past the glove of Adam Marcoux to tie the game at 1-1. Wenatchee outshot Trail 10-5 in the opening frame. In the second period, again, both teams had chances, including Josh Arnold whipping one off the inside of the post but never crossing the line. Jasper Weatherby put the Wild up 2-1 when he wristed a shot past the glove of Marcoux just past the midway point of the second period, assisted by Sowder and Zak Galambos. In the final period, the Smoke Eaters came hard and heavy but the Wild thwarted them at every turn with a strong combination of sharp, focused goaltending and tenacious shot blocking, along with a sprinkle of good old fashioned “puck luck” as the Wild held on for the 2-1 win to move within a game of advancing to the BCHL Fred Page Cup Finals. Austin Park turned aside 27 of 28 shots including all 15 in the third to earn his tenth postseason victory.

The Wild and Smoke Eaters meet again at Cominco Arena in Trail, BC, Canada for Game 4 of the Interior Conference Final at 7:00 pm Wednesday. If needed, Game 5 will be in Wenatchee on Friday, April 6. In the Coastal Conference Final, Prince George defeated Powell River 5-4 on Tuesday to go up 3-1 in that series.