SHERIDAN — A week ago, the Sheridan Hawks held an exhibition match to showcase the new North American Tier 3 Hockey League team.
Hawks coach Andy Scheib said he really appreciated the support the Sheridan community showed and hopes for equal support for the regular season home opener against the Bozeman Icedogs Friday at 7:30 p.m.
This game will be the NA3HL game of the week. Bozeman is predicted to be one of the best teams in the division, giving the Hawks an early test in what Scheib said is the biggest test of the year.
“It is going to give us a way to gauge what we need to work on the most and where we are in the team,” Scheib said.
Hawks players have lived in Sheridan for roughly a month, most of them originally from the Midwest, with a few who grew up and are familiar with Whitney Rink at the M&Ms Center.
Scheib, a Wisconsin native himself, said once the team wins a few games, then the M&Ms Center will truly be the home rink for the Hawks. Starting goaltender Zach Hearn — a Chicago, Illinois, native — said after each day of practice he feels more at home and is getting used to the rink.
“Our first preseason game the place was packed; that was awesome for us to see,” Hearn said. “We knew we had a good town behind us, but to see the rink absolutely packed is awesome. It gets everyone else going. Even though it was a preseason game it was good to see.”
Hearn said Sheridan has been a welcoming community and a good experience so far with this being the team’s first season here.
“Every time I am wearing team stuff outside of the rink people ask about the team and how we are doing,” Hearn said. “It makes me feel better about where we are and you can see the community notices who you are.”
Forward Kolton Wright — a native of Eau Clair, Wisconsin — said Sheridan has been a really great place to have the franchise. He likes the people here and the community in general.
Sheridan is coming off of a two-game road trip last weekend where they easily defeated the Butte Cobras in both games, 8-0 and 9-2.
“I think we played pretty solid; our effort was there,” Wright said. “We still have stuff to work on but overall we played pretty good.”
Hearn said the Hawks should win most games when the team scores eight or nine goals.
Hearn and Wright are both excited about the game against Bozeman, knowing it will be a challenge but a good way to see how good the Hawks truly are this year.
The main offensive threat for Bozeman will be Hazen McKay, who had three goals in the opening game for the Icedogs. Supporting McKay is a group of returners that are skilled and a very strong defensive group, Scheib said.
Prior to the 7:30 puck drop Friday, there will be a band along with a bounce house starting at 5:30 to help celebrate the inaugural home game, Scheib said. There will also be hamburgers and beer available for purchase.
Sheridan and Bozeman will also play Saturday night at 7 p.m.