SHERIDAN — Sheridan Hawks head coach Kirk Viren knew it. He knew that the Gillette Wild would come out strong in the second period.
He had seen it during film preparation, he had seen it in the last two years of playing Gillette and he saw it transpire firsthand Friday. The Wild blew open a scoreless contest in the second 18 minutes en route to a 7-1 victory on the Whitney Rink at the M&M’s Center.
“[Gillette] stepped on the gas,” Viren said. “They got more pucks to the net. They got bodies to the net. … Just crashing the paint if you will. They are very good at ramping that energy up. We knew it was coming, and I think we got a little intimidated, and we did not respond.”
And that’s is precisely what disappointed Viren the most. Even in losses to Jackson and Casper earlier this season, the Hawks has scrapped and clawed and were simply beat with their best stuff.
But against the Wild, Sheridan let up.
“Besides Gillette putting a little more pressure on, we folded in the second,” Viren said. “We folded our tents, and we didn’t help (goaltender) Josh Eaton out at all. And that second period was the catalyst for the game. The only difference was effort and courage and really just not folding.”
The two teams played to scoreless tie through one period. But, as Viren indicated, the Wild forced the issue during the second period.
Joshua Tays netted Gillette’s first goal with 13:25 to play in the second. That created positive momentum and Hudson Peterson, Alexis Poppleton and Tanner Richards Vo soon followed suit.
Peterson logged his score with 7:58 to play, Poppleton found the back of the net not two minutes later and Richards Vo capped the second-period barrage with 3:04 to play.
The Wild tallied two more goals before Viren called a time out midway through the game’s final period. Sheridan’s head man encouraged his team to focus on its execution and hustle and good things would follow.
Blake Billings gave validity to Viren’s words. Billings battled for the puck in the zone multiple times before ending Gillette’s shutout with 6:52 to play in the game.
While the issue was no longer in doubt, Viren hopes Billings’ goal can create some good feelings ahead of Saturday’s game.
“The only reason I called a time tout was to refocus them,” Viren said. “I told them, ‘Let’s build some momentum toward [Saturday]. Let’s do the little things. Let’s stick to the process and stick to your execution.’”
Saturday’s game begins at 9 a.m. The Hawks, who fell to 12-4-1 (25 points) will look to draw closer to the Wild who stand at 14-0-2 (30 points).