SHERIDAN — If the first period Friday provided any indication on how the Sheridan Hawks’ game against the Casper Oilers would play out, it looked as though the Hawks would boat race their rival from down south. Unfortunately for Sheridan, two more periods of sloppy play allowed Casper back into it, leading to nothing becoming decided Friday.
The Hawks and Oilers played to a 3-3 draw at Whitney Rink inside the M&M’s Center, which moved Sheridan to 12-2-1 on the season.
“It was a good matchup, honestly,” Sheridan head coach Kirk Viren said. “I was happy with our side. I think this is kind of what I wanted to see. I would like to have the win, but I thought we played straight up with these guys really well.”
The Hawks came out of the gates efficiently, netting their first goal on home ice since Dec. 1. John Billings logged the first score off a feed from Joel Bailey with just over 14 minutes to play in the period. Toby Jacobs and Blake Billings recorded the next two goals, and with 1:35 left in the first the Hawks appeared well on their way to a lopsided victory.
But Sheridan became a little careless and sloppy during the second 18 minutes. The crisp passing, effective team play and positioning on the ice went away and Casper capitalized.
“I think we took our foot off the gas pedal, thinking this would be an easy one to finish out,” Viren said. “That’s hard not to do when the other team is not responding real hard. But [Casper] started to get a little momentum and confidence.”
Basically, the game flipped. Not only did the Hawks not play to their potential, but the Oilers did everything Sheridan did during the opening 18 minutes.
Beau Donelan netted a pair of goals and Isaac Sutton laid claim to the other as Casper pulled even in just a six-minute span.
The intermission couldn’t have come at a more advantageous time for the Hawks. Viren was able to sit his team down and refocus the players.
Sheridan created more chances and played more sound defensively in the game’s final 18 minutes. The Hawks had a couple cracks at breaking the tie, but Casper goaltender Ryan Means — who finished the game with 29 saves — made two highlight-worthy stops that kept the contest deadlocked.
“In the third, we calmed it down, and honestly their goalie made two huge desperation saves,” Viren said. “… I was happy with the way [our team] responded more than anything. We didn’t cave and let the game go the opposite way.”
Sheridan goalie Josh Eaton — who turned away 23 shots Friday — made a couple impressive stops himself during the third period. A couple defensive gaffs left Oilers with clean looks at the goal and Eaton stood tall at every challenge.
“He definitely saved our butts a couple times out there,” Blake Billings said. “It definitely wouldn’t have been a tie game if we didn’t have Josh in net.”
The Hawks and Oilers will meet again Saturday at 9 a.m. at the M&M’s Center.