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PHOTO: Austin Park and the Wild posted a 5-4 win in Game 3 on Tuesday night to take a 3-0 series lead.
CREDIT: Hannah Winkler

The Wenatchee Wild built a solid lead then fought off a late Merritt push to earn a 5-4 win on Tuesday night at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, taking a 3 games to none lead in the best-of-seven series.

Wenatchee peppered Merritt goalie Jake Berger with 20 first period shots, allowing just 6 on Austin Park, but the game remained scoreless after 20 minutes. Early in the second, Cooper Zech scored to put the Wild up 1-0 as he drilled a rebound from the left circle across the body glove side. Zach Court scored for the Centennials in the final seconds of a power play to knot the score at 1 at 4:47, jamming home a puck from the crease. At 11:07, Jasper Weatherby redirected a Cooper Zech shot for a 2-1 lead, and then Zech scored his second of the night after picking off a neutral zone pass and stepping into the zone to laser a shot past the ear of the Merritt netminder for a 3-1 lead after 2, with the Wild outshooting the Centennials 35-10 through 40 minutes.

Merritt scrambled to gather another power play goal at 8:13 of the third period, but Lucas Sowder ripped a low shot under the blocker of Berger at 12:58 to regain the two-goal lead. At 17:17, Slava Demin drilled a high blocker shot into the twine for a 5-2 lead that appeared to be the finishing touch, but Merritt had one big push left. Just :28 seconds later, Ashton Stockie finished off a 2-on-1 rush to make it 5-3, and :44 seconds after that, Zach Zorn lifted a loose puck under the crossbar and suddenly it was a 5-4 hockey game with 1:31 still to play. Merritt used their time out, got an offensive zone draw and pulled the goalie for the extra skater, but Wenatchee was able to buckle down and secure the 5-4 win, and move to a win away from advancing to the Interior Division Semi-Finals.

Game 4 of the series will be played Wednesday March 7 at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in Merritt, BC and will be aired live on Sunny FM 93.9, streamed via the TuneIn app and videocast using HockeyTV.com. Game time is scheduled for 7:00 with a pregame show beginning at 6:45 pm. If a Game 5 is required, it will be played Friday, March 9, also in Merritt.