A couple days removed from an inaugural series he hopes continues into the future, Gillette Wild Head Coach Ethan Hayes, reflected on his squads performance this past weekend. Gillette welcomed the Granite City Lumberjacks to Spirit Hall Ice Arena, dropping the opener Friday 6-2, and falling in a shoot-out 4-3 on Saturday night.
“There was a lot of teaching moments on Friday night and on Saturday the guys got their confidence up and just played like they can play,” Hayes said. “They are a really good team. They are very skilled and on Saturday night we matched them. We were very even, and now we have a lot of work to do. I know they’re going to go back home and go to work, so we have to do the same thing, but we have to work harder.”
Scheduling a pair of non-divisional series games with one of the top programs in the NA3HL might seem like a bit of a gamble when it comes to scoring points as far as the Frontier Division race is concerned. Last season the Wild came up three points short of taking the division crown, finishing second to the Helena Bighorns. Helena finished the season with 86-points, compared to the 84-points the Wild accumulated.
“Our goal is to win the Fraser Cup. If we have to give up some points and not win the division, then it’s fine,” Hayes said. “We have to learn, if we’re going to get to the cup (championships) and perform, this is how we learn. I don’t want to only play in-division teams, I always want to play these teams outside the division. I don’t care about the gamble with points. It’s not a gamble to me if you’re learning how to be a better hockey player, it is totally worth it.”
The Wild were back on the ice Monday morning preparing for a stretch of 20-games within the Frontier Division, before they will see Granite City again at their place in Minnesota, in December. Hayes talked about the mood at practice.
“We still lost, right, and losing sucks. Guys aren’t happy but it’s not like they didn’t give everything they had, so no one is mad, everyone is just kind of blah because we lost,” Hayes added. “We’re not a team that is used to losing. It’s still a tough pill to swallow, but we’re proud of where we’re at right now, knowing that we are only going to get better. I want to schedule them every year, if they would be into it. I want to play them every year.”
As for the return to Frontier Division matchups, the Wild will load up and head over the Bighorn Mountains to Riley Arena and Community Events Center in Cody on Friday for a two-game weekend series with the Yellowstone Quake.