The Gillette Wild were riding high on a 10-game win streak when the Sheridan Hawks came to Spirit Hall Ice Arena on Friday.
What Gillette coach Steve Kruk thought was going to be a competitive game, having battled to a 2-1 victory over Sheridan early in the season, turned into a wake up call.
The Hawks (9-4) rang up seven unanswered goals, and hammered on to a 10-2 victory over the Wild (10-2) in the first game of the two-game series.
“That was embarrassing for our fans. That was embarrassing for our team. And we have nobody to blame but ourselves,” Kruk said. “I almost feel like our group sensed we could just walk into the building, and we’re going to beat teams. And boy was that an eye-opener tonight.”
Gillette hadn’t lost in over a month, and hadn’t lost by so large a deficit since Oct. 7, 2017 — a 11-0 dragging from the Yellowstone Quake.
“I don’t think we were ready for this game at all. Coming into the game, I could kind of see it happening,” Wild forward Declan Young said. “We weren’t ready all week, and just kind of led to this. It’s a shame it happened, but I think it needed to happen.
“When we started winning all these games, we started getting the mindset that we’re just going to win them no matter what happens, and no matter how we play. That doesn’t work against Sheridan.”
Sheridan’s Justin Schwartzmiller scored in the first minute to send the Hawks ahead 1-0 early. After a back-and-forth majority of the period, the Hawks scored three goals in a span of less than a minute near the end of the frame to lead 4-0 going into the first intermission.
Sheridan tacked on two more goals in the second period, and scored a seventh unanswered goal in the third period.
Young, Gillette’s leading scorer, netted two goals in the third period to make the score 7-2. Then the Hawks struck again with three more goals, two of them when the Wild had the goalie pulled, to take a 10-2 victory.
“We have to correct this immediately because we’re playing these guys again in 21 hours,” Kruk said. “We got to figure this thing out. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little mentally exhausting.”
The game was also mired by Wild penalties. Gillette had 15 penalties and two ejections. Forward Tyler Kaminski was ejected in the first period for fighting, and Wild defenseman and captain Ethan Becker was kicked for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Wild goaltender Shane Phillips started in net, but was pulled in the first period for first-year goalie Brad Muzarelli. Phillips came back in the game late in the second period.
Muzarelli saved 11-of-13 shots and Phillips saved 42-of-48. The Wild were out-shot 63-28.
Kruk said before the game that his team was missing some key players due to injuries and a suspension, but he said it wasn’t an excuse for the outcome Friday night.
“The guys that were in the lineup had an opportunity to play, and nobody did the job tonight,” Kruk said. “It starts with not being prepared when you walk in. You have a team that walked in prepared and a team that walked in kind of just getting by.”
Gillette played Sheridan again on Saturday at Sheridan’s Whitney Rink in the M&M Center.
“This brings us back to where we need to be,” Young said. “Where we were, we were way too cocky coming into the game thinking we were going to win it easily.”