Seattle’s Sam Popowich, in preseason action against Everett, scored the winning goal in the Thunderbirds’ WHL season-opening 3-2 win Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Wenatchee Wild. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Seattle’s Sam Popowich, in preseason action against Everett, scored the winning goal in the Thunderbirds’ WHL season-opening 3-2 win Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Wenatchee Wild. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Kent-based Thunderbirds edge Wenatchee Wild in season opener

Sam Popowich scores winning goal with 33 seconds left in 3-2 victory

  • Monday, September 25, 2023 3:28pm
  • Sports

Provided by the Seattle Thunderbirds

Sam Popowich’s goal with 33 seconds left lifted the Seattle Thunderbirds past the Wenatchee Wild, 3-2, Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Town Toyota Center in the T-Birds’ Western Hockey League season opener.

Next up for Seattle is its home opener, Saturday, Sept. 30 versus the Portland Winterhawks. Game time is 6:05 p.m. at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent.

Head coach Matt O’Dette said the T-Birds built off some of the things they did in the preseason to get the win.

“It was a step in the right direction,” he said. “When you rely on your habits and your formula you can persevere.”

The Thunderbirds struck with the only goal of the first period when Coster Dunn scored on the power play at the 13-minute mark. Luca Hauf and Bryce Pickford earned the assists. Seattle goalie Spencer Michnik preserved the lead when he denied Wenatchee’s Kenta Isogai on a penalty shot late in the period.

“It’s a tough situation so you get your depth, you get out and get a little bit of speed coming back,” Michnik said. “You try to read him the best you can. It’s a good scoring opportunity. If it goes in, it goes in. You just try to make the save the best you can.”

Wenatchee, in its first year in the league, tied the game, then took the lead with a pair of second period goals. Myles Cooper scored at 1:22 and Briley Wood followed at 10:48.

Braeden Cootes answered for the T-Birds when he knocked home a loose puck early in the third period.

“I was just working low with Marty and Kaz there, trying to get pucks on net,” Cootes said. “I got a lucky bounce there. It was nice to get that one and tie it up.”

The assists went to Antonio Martorana and Trey Patterson. That set up the late dramatics from Popowich.

With less than a minute remaining Wenatchee entered the Seattle zone with the puck only to have the Thunderbirds knock it free. Hyde Davidson picked up the loose puck and head up ice with Kazden Mathies. Davidson crossed the Wild blue line on the left wing and found Popowich trailing the play and fed him the puck. Popowich skated into the slot and fired a shot that beat Wild goalie Daniel Hauser.

“Scoring goals in general is a fun thing,” Popowich said. “When they’re big goals like that it obviously makes it a lot better. It was a big win for the team. It took everybody tonight and it was a good 60 minutes for us.”

O’Dette agreed and said it was a good building block for his young team.

“It’s big,” O’Dette said. “We had a really good first period, a not so good second. We kind of fell off our path a little bit but got back on it in the third. Some of our younger guys, who maybe had a shift or two they’d like back, bounced back and we have some guys with championship experience who really shined through.”

T-Birds extras

Luca Hauf, who missed all of training camp and the preseason with visa issues, arrived in time to play in the season opener. Hauf, from Germany, was acquired by Seattle from the Edmonton Oil Kings this offseason.

Goaltender Scott Ratzlaff has been returned to Seattle by the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Ratzlaff was drafted by Buffalo in the sixth round of the 2023 NHL Draft.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Sports

Ron Capps’ funny car was on display outside the Muckleshoot Casino and Hotel. Ben Ray / Sound Publishing
For the first time in NHRA history, Pacific Raceways hosts night race

Three-time event winner Ron Capps talks to fans and media before Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

Too hot to play sports? High temps challenge Kent Parks Department

Four days of events canceled July 6-9 at Wilson Playfields where surface temps soared to 120 degrees

Gio Moimoi drives to the basket for Kentridge. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Summer league spotlight: Kentridge and Kentwood boys hoops

“It has been a night and day difference from year one to now.”

Photo provided by Rodney McCurry.
Seattle Majestics play in postseason

Seattles women’s tackle football team goes to Las Vegas to open up the playoffs.

Skylar Diggins-Smith conducts the offense against the Sparks. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Storm pour it on in the fourth, wash out Sparks

Seattle used a huge 10-0 run late in the fourth to take control over Los Angeles.

Federal Way Memorial Field. Photo provided by Bruce Honda
Federal Way Memorial Field to host high school boys soccer tournaments

Class 2A, 1A competitions to move to Federal Way from Renton for 2025 to 2028

2024 Kent Reporter Athletes of the Year are Ella Wick and Ethan Loghry. Pictured left to right: Kent Reporter sports writer Ben Ray, Ella Wick, Ethan Loghry, and Brian Smith, Kent School District Director of Athletics and Activities. Photo provided by ROBBY MULLIKIN
Kent School District and Kent Reporter’s 2024 Athletes of the Year

Kentlake’s Ethan Loghry and Ella Wick take home top awards.

Kentwood and Kentridge players go at it for possession. Ben Ray / The Reporter
NPSL All-League Soccer Teams: Kentwood’s Logan Hasting is POTY

Other Kent School District athletes make the list.

Hazen’s Illia Biezak leaps over the bar. Ben Ray / The Reporter
State track and field: Liberty boys, Kent-Meridian girls place inside top four in 3A

Cassie Atkins (FW) continued to dominate, has now won five titles in three years.

Auburn Riverside softball wins state championship

Ravens win first fastpitch title in school history.

Steve Raible auctioning off a Seahawks football from 1983.
Seahawks legends inspire South King County youth at breakfast

Scholar-Athlete Breakfast in Auburn features Steve Largent and Steve Raible.

Sofia Mottern-Salinas gives a yell after getting the rally going against North Creek. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Kentwood fastpitch rallies at state, but misses out on trophy

Kentwood went 2-2 in the state tournament, falling to Emerald Ridge and Puyallup on final day.