It was a rough weekend for NA3HL division front runners, the Gillette Wild included. The Frontier Division leaders dropped their first road game of the campaign in a shootout lose Friday to Great Falls, before rebounding beating the Americans 4-1 on Saturday.
Despite dropping the game Friday, the Wild managed to move into sole possession of first place in the league following weekend loses by Granite City, and the Northeast Generals. Gillette extended their lead in the division as Helena blew a third period 3-1 lead to Butte, losing to the Cobras 4-3, on Friday night.
“I’m pretty happy with where we are in the standings, and nobody is ever gonna be mad that they’re in first place, but I think I got out coached Friday night,” Gillette Head Coach Ethan Hayes said. “We just didn’t play with discipline, and we didn’t play with the effort we needed to. With what they were doing to us, and the adjustments I didn’t make, and all that stuff thrown into the pot, they had the perfect recipe to beat us.
Friday night, Great Falls focused on keeping the Wild out of the spots they like to try and find to score goals. The Americans packing the defensive zone forced Gillette to try and make adjustments to their offensive game plan.
“They threw five guys right in the box,” Hayes said. “They just put all their guys right in front of the net and forced us to play from the perimeter, and I just didn’t adjust on that.”
The Wild still got their shots. Gillette outshot Great Falls 54-32 on the night but Americans netminder Josh Koziol turned away 51-of-54 shots he faced.
The big difference Friday was the second period which saw Gillette take five minor penalties surrendering two power play goals to Great Falls. The Wild would tie the game early in the third but neither team would score the rest of regulation or in the overtime period.
Anthony Foster would score the only shootout goal for Gillette, but a pair of goals from Great Falls was enough to seal the victory for the Americans.
Saturday night it was another outstanding performance between the pipes that would be the difference maker. Wild goalie Jake Turek stood tall stopping 29-of-30 shots faced in winning his fifth consecutive start.
“We obviously love having Turek,” Hayes said. “I truthfully think he is one of, if not, the best goalie in the league. He proves it day in and day out. He’s old reliable. If we have a tough opponent coming in, the guys know, I know, Jake knows, that he’s our guy right now.”
Gillette was solid on special teams scoring three power play goals. They continue to lead the Frontier finding success 44% of the time they’re e on the power play.
The Wild will make their second of three consecutive road trips to Montana next weekend traveling to Bozeman to face the Icedogs.