Finlandia University junior varsity coach Travis Hanson believes he has found a talent source in northeast Wyoming.
He certainly found a good starting point by recruiting Brandon Wilbert and Adam Pecht out of the Gillette Wild junior hockey program.
Wilbert, a 5-foot-6, 160-pound defender from Burbank, Wash., and Pecht, a 5-8, 175-pound forward from Buford, Ga., will start out at the junior varsity level.
“Every coach forms connections with coaches at the junior level that he trusts. If we get a couple of Wild players to come out and they like what they see, sometimes the best recruiting is from the players themselves,” Hanson said in a telephone interview from Hancock, Mich. “I like what I’ve seen out of Gillette and the players they’ve developed there.”
Both Wilbert and Pecht were on the inaugural Wild team when the organization formulated for the 2011-12 season. Now they will move on to NCAA Division III hockey to play in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association together.
“It’s right on Lake Michigan and it seems like a neat little town,” Wilbert said. “Playing JV gives me an opportunity to get my foot in the door in Division III hockey.
“The school itself has a good physical therapy program, which is what I want to get into.”
Wilbert and Pecht played in the Lewis & Clark Cup playoffs both seasons in the American West Hockey League. That experience will carry over into their NCAA D-III careers.
“Finlandia is unique in the fact that they have a JV program,” Wild general manager and head coach Tom Winkler said. “A lot of college hockey programs have gotten rid of them for budgetary reasons.
“It’s the same coaching staff, so the kids are going to have the opportunity. What they do with it from there is up to them.”
Hanson likes the junior experience Pecht and Wilbert bring to the table.
“Adam’s a player that we’re looking for big things out of,” he said. “Adam brings a maturity level and a work ethic second to none. He’s a player that’s going to come to the rink every day ready to work. He’ll do everything he can to make himself better and make that jump up to our varsity program.”
Finlandia put Wilbert on a summer weight training program and the former Wild defender is hard at work getting stronger.
“Brandon is obviously one of those players that’s going to come in and play some major minutes on the JV team and hopefully move up,” Hanson said.