Ending 2022 with a bang has led to the Gillette Wild starting 2023 on top of the NA3HL standings.
Gillette returned from the Christmas break sweeping a weekend series over the Sheridan Hawks, winning 8-4 Friday night at Spirit Hall Ice Arena, before a 9-1 victory on Saturday at the Whitney Rink in the M&M Center.
“Break is a turning point in every season,” Gillette Head Coach Ethan Hayes said. “Guys get to go home to their families and friends that they’ve been missing for months and they either get home and start to miss hockey or they get home and don’t want to leave again. I think it’s pretty clear all the guys in our locker room missed the game, they missed our family and they were excited to get back.”
With the victories the Wild (53 pts.) hold a one point lead over the East Division leading Northeast Generals (52 pts.) in the NA3HL league standings and maintained their seven point lead in the Frontier over second place Helena (46 pts).
“Winning these two against Sheridan is a good sign for me,” Hayes said. “We struggled scoring goals the last month before break. Putting up 17 in two games is great for offensive confidence.”
Both nights Gillette started fast and never looked back.
On Friday the Wild scored twice in the first two minutes. Sky Solig first, just over a minute after the first puck dropped, and Wylee Gladen 41-seconds later. Before it was done, seven different Wild found the back of the net.
Saturday it was a pair of first period goals from Anthony Foster that propelled Gillette out front. Six different Wild would score before they were done.
Cole Wheaton got the win in net for Gillette on Friday night. Dominic Hite got the win on Saturday.
We set our goals early and wanted to be at the top,” Hayes said. “We know that every team we play is going to give us their best, so if we want to stay on top, we have to stay consistent with the speed, and the physical style we play. If we can do that we’re confident we can play with and beat anybody.”
Gillette will head to Helena next weekend for a series with the Bighorns.