A veteran move by a rookie forward sparked a late game rally leading the Gillette Wild to a weekend sweep of the Sheridan Hawks. With a 5-3 victory Saturday night at Spirit Hall Ice Arena, following up their 11-2 win Friday at Whitney Rink in the M&M’s Center in Sheridan, the Wild collected all four points up for grabs between the two Northeast Wyoming rivals.
The catalyst sparking the Gillette comeback was Wild forward Ryan Jordan keeping his cool, not engaging Hawks defensemen Ethan Irvine, as Irvine worked to get RJ to scuffle before the center ice faceoff following Sheridan scoring a go ahead goal with 7:24 left to go in the contest. Hawks forward Teejay Torgrimson had fired a shot just over the left should of Gillette goalie Cole Wheaton, finding the back of the net, quieting most of the nearly 1,200 fans that had packed Spirit Hall.
After twice being warned to stop with the instigation, Irvine was sent to the Steven Titus Penalty Box for Unsportsmanlike Conduct, putting Gillette on the power play. Sheridan had killed off 90-seconds of the minor penalty, before Anthony Foster would fire a shot at Hawks goalie Jack Wood. Wood turned away the shot, and lunged to cover the puck, as Gillette’s Sky Solig, who was working back towards the play, gathered the puck, and from the side of the net wrapped the puck around sliding it to the back of the net tying the game 3-3.
“RJ is extremely smart, his hockey IQ is off the charts,” Gillette Head Coach Ethan Hayes said. “He is extremely coachable so when that stuff is going on and he knows we need to go get a goal, the way he handled that was extremely mature. That was an extreme team move. He nailed it. He did everything he was supposed to do in that moment.”
Gillette’s Adam Severson would fire a shot just over Woods’ right pad to score the go ahead goal with just under two minutes to go in the third. An Alec Waller goal in the game’s final minute would lock up the victory for Gillette.
The comeback victory Saturday followed up the Wild’s come from behind win on Friday night. Sheridan scored the first goal, just past the midway point of period number one, before Gillette would score the next six.
“It’s a situation you want to be in as a coach,” Hayes said. “Nobody ever wants to be losing, but it’s a situation you want to be in to prove to yourself and to the guys that when you are in tough games, in hard situations, in hard moments, that it can be done.”
It was after that sixth Gillette goal, midway through the second, things got a little western. Wild goalie Jake Turek had gone behind his goal to play a puck Sheridan chipped in from the neutral zone, when Hawks defenseman Makhai Sparks skated through Turek, who had sent the puck around the board with a backhand, knocking him to the ice.
Sparks was quickly met by Gillette defenseman Josef Lalli and the fists went to flying. Lalli, and Wild linemates Wylee Gladen, and Cade Voge would all get involved. The three Bemidiji, MN, products were ejected for fighting. Sparks, along with McCaffrey Billings, and Teejay Torgrimson, were tossed for Sheridan.
“That is 100% the reaction I want to see from my guys on my team.” Hayes said about the Bemidiji boys’ reaction. “I am extremely proud of the guys that took that matter into their own hands and sent that message that if you want to run our goalie then you’re going to have to answer for it. Unfortunately we lost some guys due to suspension, but they’re willing to get that suspension to take care of our team.”
With the victories, Gillette maintains a hold on 2nd place in the Frontier Division standings. The Wild will be on the road this weekend, headed north to Greats Fall, MT, for a pair of games with the Americans.