The Gillette Wild started the season with a 7-1 loss at Great Falls, Montana, before taking four-straight victories. They rank No. 2 in the Frontier Division of North American 3 Hockey League play through September behind the Bozeman Icedogs (5-0).
This weekend, the Wild look to improve on a 4-1 record in Butte, Montana, against a struggling Butte Cobras team that hasn’t won a game this season and have been out-scored 49-11 in six games.
“We can’t get complacent. Our approach has to be the same. We have to worry about ourselves,” Wild coach Steve Kruk said. “But I do think there’s a great opportunity for this team to keep rifling off wins.”
The top point scorers for Gillette so far have been forward Declan Young, who leads the team with six goals and three assists, and captain defenseman Ethan Becker, who has eight assists.
Becker is the only captain who has been named on the Wild.
“He quarterbacks the back end,” Kruk said. “He’s a fluid skater. He’s smart. He’s got a good hockey IQ. Obviously, he’s got a cannon of a shot too. He’s done everything short of putting the puck in the back of the net, but I kind of believe in karma that way where if you continue to go about your business the right way, you’re going to get the results.”
Wild goaltenders Anthony Seykora and Shane Phillips each boasting save percentages over 92 percent, the starting job isn’t decided until just before game time. Seykora has played the most minutes with three full games under his belt and has a 3-0 record.
“Goaltending’s been fantastic,” Kruk said. “Sometimes you’ve got to make a couple saves that you’re not supposed to make, and I think in all four games that we’ve won, there’ve been a couple of those.”
There are four goalies on the roster, and Kruk said the job is always up in the air for any given game.
What the coach wants to clean up are the penalty minutes and power-play goals that were a major contributor to the Wild not making the NA3HL playoffs for the first time last season.
In the last four games, six of the nine total goals scored on the Wild came when they were on the penalty kill.
“I really hope they see the writing on the wall,” Kruk said. “It’s that 5-on-5 we’re probably one of the best, if not the best, team in this division. But you start getting into penalty trouble and we’re not good.”
Gillette plays the Butte Cobras on Friday and Saturday, and then stay on the road against the Missoula Junior Bruins on Oct. 11-12. The next home games are Oct. 18-19 against the Cobras at Spirit Hall Ice Arena.