In the first period of the Gillette Wild’s Saturday game against the Butte Cobras, Wild leading scorer Declan Young took a puck to the face and left the arena to sow up the gash on his chin. It took nine stitches.
Young’s host mother drove him to get stitched up, then raced him back across town from Campbell County Memorial Hospital to the Spirit Hall Ice Arena at Cam-plex. By that time, the third period was about to start and the Wild were tied with a team they beat 10-3 the night before.
“There was no way I wasn’t coming back, even if the game was at 5 minutes left,” Young said.
After two goals for each team in the start of the period, Young scored the game-winner midway through the third and the Wild rolled on to a 7-4 win and another series sweep.
“It was all worth it,” Young said. “It was the shortest game I’ve ever played, and we won.”
Wild coach Steven Kruk said he could feel the difference in his team when the Wild didn’t have Young on the bench.
“I’d be lying if I said our lineup didn’t have a big hole without him in it for that period and a half,” Kruk said. “He could’ve said, ‘Hey, I’m just not feeling it the rest of the night. I’m banged up.’
“That’s a warrior, and that’s somebody that, ultimately, is going to play hockey at a higher level.”
The Wild (10-1) were wearing their pink jerseys for “Pink in the Rink” weekend to raise money for Swing for the Cure and now have 10 straight victories with their sweep of Butte.
Saturday’s game started with two Wild goals in the first period — one from Ethan Becker and the other from Keedin Denny. Gillette was off to its regular start against the Cobras, which have lost all 12 games of their season.
But then the Cobras tallied two goals of their own in the second period to tie the game and put some stress on the Wild going into the final period.
Becker scored within the first two minutes and then Butte’s Hunter Varney and Kyler Garsjo each scored to take a 4-3 lead.
“They came to play tonight because they got nothing to lose, and they’re going to go out and battle every night. So, I’ll give it to them. They played good tonight,” Becker said. “We kind of fell down and didn’t play our best game, but picked it up in the end.”
Wild forward Jacob Sundgren tied the game minutes later, and then Young scored what would be the game-winner with 10 minutes to play in the game.
Denny and Caleb Sanborn each notched a goal later in the third period to give the Wild some space over the bottom-ranked Frontier Division Cobras.
There were some injured players not in the game, and Jacob Kaminski was out with a suspension to make things difficult for the Wild.
“I don’t think we were very good at the start of the game, and Butte’s still a hockey team. It doesn’t matter that they were 0-11,” Kruk said. “We can’t just expect that because they’re 0-11 they’re just going to shut down and we’re going to get win No. 10 for us, no skin off our back. … I think we fell victim to that a little bit.”
Anthony Seykora started in net Saturday and saved 28 of 32 shots, while Cobras goalie Sean O’Connor saved 53 of the 60 Gillette shots he faced.
On Friday, the Wild won 10-3 in the first game of the series.
Wild forwards Tyler Kaminski, Caleb Sanborn and George Stilson each scored two goals to lead the Wild on Friday. Defenseman Danny Ramos tallied four assists.
Wild goaltenders Shane Phillips and Brad Muzarelli each played considerable time Friday night, but Phillips recorded the win. Seykora and Phillips have split time this season, and each have 5-0 records.
Gillette will play the Sheridan hawks (8-4) next. The first game at 7:05 p.m. will be Friday at Spirit Hall Ice Arena in Gillette, and the second game will be played at 7 p.m. at Sheridan’s Whitney Rink in the M&M Center.
“Two teams near the top of the division, cross-town rivalry, two very skilled hockey teams,” Kruk said. “I hope we pack both buildings. It’s going to be a really competitive weekend.”