The Gillette Wild will play the Sheridan Hawks this weekend in a two-game series.
Friday’s game starts at 7:05 p.m. at Spirit Hall Ice Arena in Gillette, and Saturday’s game is at 7 p.m. at Whitney Rink at the M&M Center in Sheridan.
Gillette, which is on a 10-game winning streak, beat Sheridan 2-1 in the only regular season game between the two teams so far this season.
“That was a tight game. It was back-and-forth. Either team could’ve won,” Wild coach Steve Kruk said. “They’re trending in the right direction. They’ve got a couple lines that can really play.”
The Hawks are in their first year as a North American Tier III Hockey League program and have an 8-4 record, putting them at fourth in the eight-team Frontier Division.
“They’ve surprised the division a little bit and they’re definitely hanging around in the top half of the division,” Kruk said. “They’ve earned a lot of respect pretty early on.”
The Wild will play a little shorthanded with four players out with injuries or suspension this weekend. Pablo Palos is in concussion protocol, Devan Dunn is out with a fractured jaw, Wil Dillard suffered a wrist injury and George Stilson is serving a one-game suspension.
Goaltenders Shane Phillips and Anthony Seykora have been splitting time in the crease, and each have 5-0 records. Phillips started the first game against Sheridan and saved 27 of 28 shots on goal.
“They were definitely more than we expected. They’re a good hockey team. They’re very skilled, offensively,” Phillips said. “It’s always going to be a battle.”
The goalies don’t know who is going to start until two hours before game time.
“It’s definitely an added influence to work really hard in practice, because if you know you’re the No. 1 guy in practice, chances are you’re going to start that game,” Phillips said.
Declan Young leads all Wild players with 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists). Defenseman and captain Ethan Becker has 23 points, with 18 assists and five goals.
“I’ve been having a lot of fun out here. It’s been helping that the team is always fun to be around,” said Young, a first-year junior hockey player out of Fergus Falls, Minnesota. “I’ve always wanted to be at the rink, and it always makes me play a lot better in a game when I know I got teammates that are always behind my back.”
Though Gillette won 10 straight games, eight of those wins were against teams in the bottom half of the division. They have taken four wins against Missoula and four against Butte. Butte has yet to win a game, and Missoula is third-to-last in the division with a 3-8 record.