Saturday, April 13, 2024

Wild bust out of cold snap Wednesday, score 7-4 win at Thunderbirds

Wenatchee, Seattle split 2023-24 series as Sward, Blueliners dominate scoring column in final meeting

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KENT – The Wenatchee Wild opened February winless in five tries, and with its offense in a dry spell, scoring just seven goals over the first five games of the month. Wednesday, that drought turned to a flood in Wenatchee’s road contest against the Seattle Thunderbirds, as the Wild scored seven goals in a single night for a 7-4 Western Hockey League victory. The win means the teams finish with a split in the season series, with each team winning two of three on the other team’s home ice.

Wenatchee opened the scoring just 2:11 into the game, when Graham Sward took a pass from Josh Fluker and weaved the puck to the net from the blue line, beating Scott Ratzlaff to put the Wild in front. Karter Prosofsky walked the puck into the right-wing faceoff circle before ripping a wrist shot for a 2-0 lead at the 14:33 mark.

Seattle did its best to take control back in the second period – Sam Popowich punched in a rebound at 1:04, while Nathan Pilling hit the top of the net at 2:18 to erase the lead that remained. The Wild took the lead back on the power play at the 8:03 mark, though, when Briley Wood got a redirect on Sward’s shot from just inside the blue line. They stretched it further with 9:34 on the second-period clock, when Miles Cooper drove the puck down the left-wing boards and found Jonas Woo in front to jam in a chance in front of Ratzlaff.

Twice more, the Thunderbirds cut the lead to a single goal, but twice more, the Wild fended them off to regain the two-goal margin. Eric Alarie collected his own rebound for a goal with 7:27 left in the second period, but Rodzers Bukarts scored off a Hayden Moore faceoff win with 2:51 left in the second. Antonio Martorana made it a 5-4 game with 29.2 seconds left in the period, but Evan Friesen bounced in a blue-line shot from Sward on the power play 4:35 into the third to stretch the score to 6-4. Sward scored his second of the night with a rocket from the left-wing circle with 11:07 remaining in the game.

“When you get in these doldrums, it’s nice to get out of them with a pretty decisive win,” said head coach Roy Sommer. “For the most part, we played pretty good – we tried to give the game back to them for a small portion of the second period, but we recuperated and had a pretty solid third.”

Sward posted a new career-best with two goals and three assists, while Bukarts ended the night with a goal and two assists for the Wild, and Prosofsky had a goal and an assist. In all, 13 Wenatchee players contributed at least one point, with four of the seven goals coming from the team’s blueliners. Brendan Gee turned away 27 Seattle shots for his 11th win of the season, and Wenatchee wrapped up the night nearly perfect on special teams with a 2-for-3 power play mark and a 2-for-2 finish on the penalty kill.

Alarie and Martorana ended the night with a goal and an assist apiece for the Thunderbirds, while Nishaan Parmar tallied a pair of assists. Ratzlaff tied a season-high with seven goals allowed, as the Wild sent 37 shots on the Seattle net and bumped their record to 28-21-4-0 for the year. Seattle slipped to 18-31-2-0, suffering its fifth straight defeat. The win was critical for the Wild, when paired with the Victoria Royals’ loss to the Vancouver Giants – with 15 games left on their schedule, Wenatchee now holds a two-point advantage over Victoria for fourth in the WHL’s Western Conference and home-ice advantage in a potential first-round playoff matchup, with a game in hand.

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