SHERIDAN — After spotting Gillette five goals, and after a chip in the ice halted play for a significant portion of Saturday, the best version of the 2018-19 Sheridan Hawks introduced themselves to the home crowd at Whitney Rink inside the M&M’s Center.
The Hawks flew around the ice, shared the puck and what looked like, at one point, a rout turned into a battle of two teams jockeying for a position near the top of the Wyoming Amateur Hockey Association standings.
And even though Sheridan eventually succumbed to the Wild by a final score of 7-4, head coach Kirk Viren was more pleased with how his team played Saturday as opposed to Friday.
“We battled back to make it a one-goal game. I was proud of them,” Viren said. “… We got down way too early and we battled back, but we just have to find that urgency earlier in the game.”
Gillette carried a 4-0 lead into the second period and tacked on another one before play was stopped for a significant chip in the ice near the net at the north end of the rink.
Officials asked coaches and players to exit the bench and enter the locker rooms with more than 14 minutes to play in the second period as officials and the Zamboni attempted to remedy the chip. Normally, teams head to their respective locker rooms in between the second and third periods.
The earlier-than-normal break came an an opportune time for the Hawks.
Gillette had already built a sizable lead and appeared poised to run away with another stress-free victory for the second time in as many nights.
“A team up that big, it stems all their momentum,” Viren said. “It gave us a chance to regroup, focus and challenge ourselves. We told the guys, ‘Hey, it’s a bad start to the game. They put a lot of pucks in the net, but this is a nice stoppage. Let’s turn this momentum around. They’ve now lost all the good positive momentum they had and it’s even keel again.”
Benjamin Lavigne, on a pass from Blake Billings, gave the Hawks their first goal of the game with 7:54 to play in the second stanza. This kickstarted the scoring for the home team as Billings, Lavigne and Hunter Swanson found the back of the net in the next 13 minutes.
“We came out of [the intermission], and I think that’s probably the best teamwork we’ve had in a game,” Lavigne said. “… We have a lot of great individuals on our team, as does Gillette, so if we don’t all come together and pass, get our heads up, look for other players to pass to, it doesn’t matter how good you’re are, they can shut you down immediately. (Before the intermission) we weren’t passing very well, we weren’t talking, we weren’t getting our heads up looking for teammates and other players.”
The Hawks continued to do that, earning themselves a couple looks to level the score at 5 but couldn’t capitalize.
Stratton Kohr Vo gave the Wild some breathing room with a score with 5:44 to play in the game, and he added another with just seven seconds remaining to give the game its final tally.
Kohr Vo logged a hat trick, as he also recorded a first-period goal. Tanner Richards Vo, Ethan Tarver Vo, Hudson Peterson and Warren Watson scored the other goals for Gillette.
Sheridan goaltender Josh Eaton logged 25 saves, while Gillette goalie Bradley Muzzarelli turned away 15 shots in net.
The Hawks — who own the third spot the WAHL standings — fell to 12-5-1 on the season (25 points), and the Wild improved to 15-0-2 (32 points), which ties them with Jackson atop the state.
Sheridan is back in action Feb. 8 against Cheyenne. The Capitals lay claim to the fifth spot in the WAHL standings, holding a record of 8-4-0 (16 points).