PHOTO: Wenatchee Wild forward Cade Littler with Wenatchee goaltender Owen Millward in the background. Littler scored a hat trick in his 100th BCHL game Friday, helping the Wild defeat the Merritt Centennials 7-4. (Photo credit: Russ Alman/Digital Media Northwest

By Austin Draude Wenatchee Wild Media Relations & Broadcast Manager

WENATCHEE, Wash. – It only seemed appropriate that a Wenatchee Wild player would score three goals Friday on “St. Hatrick’s Night” at Town Toyota Center.

That player was Cade Littler, playing in his 100th British Columbia Hockey League game, as the Wild scored a 7-4 win over the Merritt Centennials and earned two critical standings points in a constantly-tightening Interior Conference race.

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The Wild struck first when Parker Murray scored from the left wing, giving the hosts a transition goal and the lead just 7:09 into the contest. Maddix McCagherty scored to tie it with 5:48 left in the first period, after taking a pass out of the corner from Connor Farren. However, the Wild got that goal back just 14 seconds later when Littler scraped a goal past Connor Sullivan for a 2-1 advantage.

A penalty to Kyle Isenberg put the Wild on the power play before the ensuing faceoff, and Littler rifled a one-timer past Sullivan 36 seconds later, stretching the lead to 3-1. Wenatchee went to the intermission up 4-1, after Ean Somoza stuffed a shot into the top corner of the net with just four seconds left in the first period.

The teams traded goals early in the second, as Aidan Lindblad beat Owen Millward with a wrist shot just 50 seconds out of the break and Dane Westen snapped his first junior goal past Sullivan at the 1:18 mark of the period. Littler scored his hat-trick marker with 3:20 left on a brief pileup at the net, putting Wenatchee ahead 6-2 with a period to go.

Somoza put a cap on Wenatchee’s offensive effort with 8:08 remaining and the Wild on a two-man advantage, taking a high-slot pass from Micah Berger and tossing it into the top corner of the net for a five-goal lead. Two Merritt goals in the final minutes – a shorthanded backdoor tap-in from Diego Johnson with 7:09 left and another from Rocco LaCara with 1:56 to go – were as close as the Centennials would get after that.

“It was nice to get the win. We need it, and we need to try to keep climbing in the standings to put ourselves in the best spot we can for the playoffs,” said Wenatchee director of scouting and assistant coach Leigh Mendelson. “We got off to a great start and did a lot of great things 5-on-5, and scored a power play goal. I thought we got bogged down and got a bit sloppy, but a lot of guys did a lot of good things tonight.”

Littler posted an assist in a four-point effort, while Somoza picked up three assists to go with his two goals. In all, five Wenatchee players ended with multi-point marks. Defenseman David Hejduk reached a milestone, making his 100th BCHL appearance as well.

The win moves the Wild to 26-22-1-2 for the year, with the fourth-place and seventh-place teams in the Interior Conference standings separated by just two points. Merritt fell to 12-34-3-2 with the loss, their fifth straight. The Cranbrook Bucks stop in Saturday for their final matchup of the regular season, with a 6:05 p.m. puck drop. Live coverage is available on NewsRadio 560 KPQ and BCHL TV.

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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