Twice the Gillette Wild squandered early game leads before twice rallying back securing a series sweep over the Yellowstone Quake this past weekend in Cody.
Friday night Yellowstone responded to three consecutive Wild goals with three goals of their own, and had drawn even with Gillette midway through the second period. From there Gillette would score the next five en route to an 8-3 victory.
On Saturday night Gillette jumped out to a two-goal lead before Yellowstone cut the lead in half, twice in the third period, where ultimately an empty-net goal late for the Wild helped secure a 4-2 win.
“When you can not play your best and still come out on top, that’s always a sign of a good team.” Gillette Head Coach Ethan Hayes said Sunday evening. “They got a lot of compete in them. There is not quit in these guys.”
It was a fine bit of net minding late Friday night, by Gillette’s Cole Wheaton, which helped squelch any hopes Yellowstone had of working their way out of a hole for a second time. The Wild had regained momentum after surrendering three straight goals to the Quake, and were out front 5-3 midway through the third period when they found themselves working to kill off a minor high sticking penalty. After winning a face-off in their offensive end, Yellowstone cycled the puck around the end boards to the blue line, and forward Teagan Scheurer setup a one- timer for defensemen Wyatt O’Donoghue from just outside the face-off circle to Wheaton’s left. Wheaton went from post-to-post lunging with his glove hand, tipping the puck wide of the net.
Less than two minutes after the Wheaton save, Gillette forward Adam Severson would bury a shot past Yellowstone goalie John Hughes to make things 6-3 in favor of the Wild. Gillette would add two more power play goals over the final six minutes to seal the victory.
“I have all the confidence in the world in all of our goalies.” Hayes said. “When they do make those big in-game saves, it is a huge momentum changer. We want to reward them as a team, making sure we get them a win.”
Saturday night saw a much lower scoring affair. Gillette was clinging to one goal lead midway through the third period when Wild defenseman Alec Waller would poke the puck away from Quake forward Ty Mullenbach, as Yellowstone was working to clear the puck from the Gillette offensive zone. The puck found the stick of Wild forward JP Johnson, who was working back towards the Yellowstone goal on the play. Johnson gathered the puck and fired a shot just under the glove and over the pad of Quake goalie Edvin Falkenstrom giving Gillette a 3-1 lead, and Johnson a hat trick on the evening.
Yellowstone would again cut the Gillette lead to one, scoring a power play goal with just over three minutes to play. Then all hell broke loose.
As the clock rolled past two minutes to play in the third, Scheurer would fire a shot at Gillette goalie Dominc Hite. Hite tipped the shot wide with his glove, Yellowstone gathered the puck and fired on goal again with Hite, in the left crease, making a save sending the puck softly back to his right. Quake forward Brayson Bennett, charging the net, found the puck on his stick firing a quick shot over the outreached sticks of two different Wild defenders who had sprawled across the ice defending the goal. Hite reached back with his stick hand, stopping the puck with his blocker, as a scrum ensued just in front of his crease. The goal light was illuminated, then quickly turned off, during the melee, leading to a bit of confusion. The officials conferred with the goal judge and it was determined no goal was scored.
“Dom played amazing, he definitely kept us in that game.” Hayes said. “More times than once he made big saves. That allowed us to succeed as a team.”
Saizha Norwegian would add an empty net goal with just over a minute to go to secure a 4-2 Gillette victory.
With the four points Gillette earned they continue to sit second in the Frontier Division with 13 points. The Wild will now look forward to a series with the Sheridan Hawks next weekend. Friday night Gillette will be in Sheridan, before returning home to face the Hawks Saturday night at Spirit Hall Ice Arena.