SHERIDAN — Members of the Sheridan NA3HL Hawks that made the move from Wisconsin saw the return of a familiar face Tuesday when Anthony Fortin retook the ice after the Hawks defeated the top team in the division the weekend before.
Fortin was a member of the Wisconsin Whalers the previous three seasons, playing in 115 games, scoring 36 goals and earning 50 assists while in a Whaler Sweater.
Head coach Andy Scheib said Fortin was one of the players with whom he wanted to make the move from Wisconsin to Wyoming.
Fortin said he was in the process of starting a career as an electrician and was attempting to start his life as a young adult. Instead of making the move to Wyoming with the franchise, Fortin remained in his hometown of Dubuque, Iowa and was in a position to begin his electricians’ apprenticeship.
Unfortunately for Fortin, his apprenticeship was pushed back to next fall, leaving him without a job but an open future.
“It took me a while to make my decision,” Fortin said. “Another big part of it is was my girlfriend, it was hard to leave her right off the bat. [The Hawks] are having a good season and I am the type of player that is going to lay it on the line every night to win a hockey game and win a championship.”
Fortin decided to rejoin his teammates in Wyoming and play his final year of eligibility before aging out of junior hockey.
Scheib said this will be his fourth season coaching Fortin and knew he would fit in well with the team. Fortin took the ice for the first time on Tuesday and learned he is no longer in hockey shape. Fortin, who has not skated since August, said he will have to become accustomed to the altitude.
Knowing he’d join former teammates and friends on the ice aided his decision. But he also knows frustrations may occur.
“Obviously sometimes you will yell at each other because it gets frustrating on the ice and it happens, but if we stick together and create a good bond, there is a good possibility we are looking to have a ring on our finger at the end of the season,” Fortin said.
One of the toughest competitors for the Hawks in the Bozeman Icedogs
The Hawks split their most recent games against Bozeman, being shut out 5-0 Friday and winning Saturday 7-2. Justin Schwartzmiller said the team made too many mental mistakes on Friday.
The shutout motivated the team to focus in on Saturday, allowing the Hawks to hit the ice more prepared and earn a large victory.
Schwartzmiller said the Hawks displayed a well-rounded game Saturday, executing the penalty kill well and taking advantage of power play opportunities.
Scheib said the Hawks competed hard both nights and thought Bozeman did not look as good on Saturday. He learned the Hawks are a team that does not like to lose and saw them Hawks respond well to a loss by having a good game Saturday.
Bozeman still remains the top team in the division but the Hawks were able to defeat the Icedogs for the first time this season. Schwartzmiller said the Hawks knew they could defeat Bozeman and turned thought into action.
“It was good to finally get that monkey off our back and beat them,” Schwartzmiller said.
Schwartzmiller to remain with Hawks
Two weeks, ago Justin Schwartzmiller received a call to practice with the Bismarck Bobcats in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was an opportunity to practice with a team in the tier II league and possibly earn a spot on the roster.
Schwartzmiller said it was a good opportunity for him to play hockey at a faster pace and with a good team. Bismarck is the top team in their division and in the NAHL. He was also able to see where he stood compared to other players in the league.
He did not earn a roster spot and will be with the Hawks for the foreseeable future. Receiving calls to practice with teams at the next level is a part of the process of moving up, Schwartzmiller said. The more teams he goes to, the more chances he has to meet a coach that likes his abilities, which is how he found his way playing under Scheib.
Schwartzmiller said he was an average player when he played high school hockey in Wisconsin. Scheib gave him an opportunity to play for the Hawks and develop his skills. Now Schwartzmiller leads the Hawks in scoring with 39 goals and 23 assists and ranks second in the NA3HL.
Schwartzmiller, Fortin and the rest of the Hawks will travel to Helena, Montana, to face the Helena Bighorns Dec. 6-7.