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PHOTO: Jacob Modry (26) and Cal Sandquist (30) defend the goal on Saturday night. 
CREDIT: Russ Alman / Digital Media Northwest

On a night labeled “Fan Appreciation Night”, the Wild gave the season’s largest crowd (3,873) a tremendous show in a see-saw battle with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks that saw the game tied four separate times before Wenatchee salted away the 6-5 win in regulation time, clinching the Interior Division’s Number 3 seed in the process.

The crowd was settled in early, due in part to AG Supply’s Walt Bobblehead Giveaway for the first 1,000 fans. The Wild fed off the palpable energy, taking a 1-0 lead on a PJ Fletcher goal at 2:52, a high blocker side wrister set up by Lucas Sowder. Nathan Iannone swept home the rebound of a Brandon Koch point shot on the doorstep at 4:18, and the Wild were off and running. But a five minute major penalty for kneeing against Wenatchee proved costly as the Silverbacks scored twice in :26 seconds to tie the game, the first shot a tap-in from the crease by Jack Sampson, the second a shot from the high slot by Nick Unruh. Olson Werenka finished off a crossing pass on the back door later in the period and the Wild, suddenly trailing 3-2 opted to swap out goalies, bringing Cal Sandquist in to relieve Austin Park. Murphy Stratton tied the game at 3-3, flicking home a power play rebound but Akito Hirose answered with a power play goal of his own from the left wing wall four minutes later to retake the lead.

Wenatchee opened the third period on a power play but couldn’t get the equalizer until Chad Sasaki roofed a shot from the bottom of the right circle. Avery Winslow netted his second goal of the year from the left point and the Wild led 5-4. Salmon Arm wasn’t done, though, as Matt Verboon blistered a one-timer from the left circle off the post and in to tie the game for the fourth time. The game winner came on a sharp pass from Lucas Sowder to AJ Hodges who punched it through the pads of the Salmon Arm netminder for a 6-5 lead that stood until the final horn.  Wenatchee outshot Salmon Arm 36-22.

Wenatchee (30-20-2-4) wraps up the regular season by visiting the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (27-23-4-1) on Tuesday night and the Penticton Vees on Wednesday. The games will be available for video streaming on HockeyTV, and will be broadcast live both locally and via internet stream on “NewsRadio 560 KPQ”, with the Pregame Shows starting 15 minutes prior to faceoff.

In clinching the #3 seed, the Wild are assured of opening the first round on home ice on the first weekend of March. Dates and times and opponent are yet to be determined, as the final week of games will determine.