In the game of hockey, much like the game of life, familiarity breeds content.
This was never more evident then in the season’s first meeting between the Sheridan Hawks and Gillette Wild last month, as seeing an opponent for the 10th time in a little over a calendar year, led to passion buckets overflowing. There were nine ejections, and over 280 minutes of penalty time served between the two squads.
Gillette swept the weekend series, winning 11-2 in Sheridan, and 5-3 in Gillette, but this weekend the Wild will be seeing a Hawks squad playing as well as any in the NA3HL. Since dropping the pair to Gillette, Sheridan went to Bozeman swept the Icedogs, and returned home to sweep a series against then Frontier Division front running Helena.
“We don’t really prepare differently for anybody, it’s always the same for us,” Gillette Head Coach Ethan Hayes said, when asked about preparing for Sheridan. “We have to learn to play at the highest level all the time, no matter who we’re playing. We’re always prepared for a good matchup, and we like good competition, but we’re not going to prepare any different than we have been.
Results have shown the preparation recipe Gillette has been using is working. The Wild are the only Frontier Division squad to have not dropped a game within said division this season. The last two wins over Sheridan helped move the Wild a bit closer in the series between the two organizations, but the Hawks still lead overall 15-11.
Over their last four, Sheridan has been outshot in three of their victories. They’re averaging 6.5 goals, while allowing 4 goals over that span. Eight of the 26 goals scored came on the power play.
While starting lineups are not announced until about an hour before puck drop, Hawks Head Coach Chad Bailey will have the reigning NA3HL Bauer Hockey Frontier Division First Star of the Week available to start in goal. Patric Loeffler stopped 98-of-107 shots he faced, allowing five goals, as Sheridan swept Helena.
Over their four game win streak Sheridan has been led in scoring by defenseman Makhai Sparks. The Boise, ID product recorded 12 points, on five goals and seven assists, during the span. Sparks was ejected from the first game of the last series against Gillette for charging Wild goalie Jake Turek midway through the second period.
The Wild come into the weekend with six of the top 20 scorers in the NA3HL: JP Johnson, 3rd, with 26 points, on 16 goals and 10 assists, Sky Solig, 7th, with 25 points, on nine goals and 16 assists, Saizha Norwegian, 10th, with 23 points, on six goals and 17 assists, Adam Severson, 12th, with 22 points, on nine goals and 13 assists, Isaac Young, 16th, with 22 point, on four goals and 18 assists, and Anthony Foster, 17th, with 21 points, on 10 goals and 11 assists.
The weekend split series will get underway Friday night at Spirit Hall Ice Arena with a 7:05 p.m. scheduled puck drop. The Wild will be in Sheridan on Saturday night at Whitney Rink in the M&M Center in Sheridan with a 7:30 p.m. scheduled puck drop.