SHERIDAN — A quarter of the way through its inaugural season as an NA3HL franchise, the Sheridan Hawks have established themselves as a team that belongs in the top half of the Frontier Division.
In the eight-team division, the Hawks are currently in fourth place with an 8-4 record. All the teams in the bottom half of the conference have a losing record.
The Hawks are 1-4 against the top three teams in the conference and have a chance to defeat the No. 2 team in the division, Gillette Wild.
The Hawks and Wild play the second and third regular season games against each other Friday and Saturday. Gillette has the edge so far, defeating the Hawks 2-1.
The two teams also met twice during the preseason.
“They are a good team; they are tough to play,” said forward Kolton Wright. “Their goalie played well that last time we played them.”
To have better outcomes against top teams in the division, the Hawks need to focus on sticking to their own game plan.
“As long as we play our game I think we will be alright,” Wright said. “We have kind of gotten away from the little things early in the season and now we are kind of back playing the way coach wants us to play. I think as long as we stay consistent with that we should be good.”
Having consistent effort was a problem for the Hawks early in the season but has since played well on back-to-back nights in the previous two weekends. The Hawks defeated the Missoula Junior Bruins Oct. 18-19 by scores of 7-2, 4-1.
“Last weekend we actually put in a good effort both nights, Friday and Saturday,” said head coach Andy Scheib. “This week of practice so far has probably been the best week of practice as far as consistency goes. I am feeling pretty good going into this weekend’s games.”
Wright said this weekend proved the Hawks can play consistent for an entire weekend, not just Friday night.
Scheib said his main goal is to have a consistent effort against the Wild, just like the previous two weeks.
The Hawks have recently signed a new goalie, James Downie, that played for the Hawks against the Junior Bruins. Scheib said with the addition of Downie the Hawks should have good one, two combinations with Downie and Zach Hearn.
The Hawks currently lead the division in goals scored and goal differential.
“It is a good feeling, you always want to score goals,” Scheib said. “I think it is good for the fans, I think it is good for that aspect. As far as a team standpoint goes, you are not going to win games unless you score goals. If we are leading the division in goals for, we are giving ourselves a pretty good chance to win a game each night.”
The Hawks are also the top team in the division when it comes to special teams. The Hawks have scored on 54.3% of their power play opportunities. The Hawks have also defended their net well when they are shorthanded with an 87.5% penalty kill rate.
“Special teams are huge; that is where you are going to be able to win games,” Scheib said. “Your goalie is going to have to come up big. You are down a man so you just have to compete and really go hard.”
By winning those small battles during a game, Wright said the Hawks place themselves in a good position to win every night.
Players from the previous franchise, the Wisconsin Whalers, and new players on the roster have two months of practice and games to build strong team chemistry.
“I think it is great,” Wright said about the team chemistry. “It is one of the best locker rooms I have been around. I know a lot of guys feel the same and I think we are rolling here.”
The Hawks will play at Gillette 7:05 p.m. Friday and will be back home Saturday with the puck dropping at 7 p.m.