WENATCHEE — In a season defined by progress and development, the youth-laden Wenatchee Wild will incur its next test with a two-game road series against the Port Huron Fighting Falcons beginning Saturday.
The North Division-leading Fighting Falcons (7-2-2 overall) rank tied for second in the North American Hockey League with 36 goals scored and 16 points this season.
Forward Mitch Maloney leads the team with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and there is plenty of experience on the roster to make for a dangerous opponent.
“They got out of the gate quick, winning a lot of games,” second-year coach Bliss Littler said. “And winning breeds confidence.”
Meanwhile the Wild — coming off a two-game series sweep over the Minot Minotauros — are still in the early stage of building a winning culture.
Littler saw progress in last weekend’s back-to-back wins, but noted there’s still a long way to go.
He pointed to the number of Wild goals scored during special teams sets (five power play goals in two games against the Minotauros) as evidence the compete level isn’t quite where it needs to be.
“We’re getting better, but I think we have a long way to go and I think that’s why you’re seeing most of our offense coming on special teams right now,” he said. “We just need to battle. It’s not that we’re not working hard — we work hard — we just need to battle a little harder.”
The bench boss made it clear league standings aren’t priority No. 1, at least not right now. He’s more focused on molding a roster of unexperienced players into a competitive unit.
But the Wild (5-3-0 overall) aren’t exactly in dire straits.
They defended home ice capably last weekend and have done very well while shorthanded with a 91.9 percent penalty kill percentage.
There are positives to draw from going forward and the upcoming road stint — which includes a pair of road games against the Soo Eagles after the Port Huron trip — will help Littler’s squad develop.
“This will be a really good challenge for our group,” he said. “Both weekends (we’re) playing two awful good hockey teams, and a long ways to go on the road here to play a couple games; we’ll see. I’m excited to see how we respond to this challenge.”