SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — It’s been two weeks since the Wenatchee Wild took off for a road trip in Michigan, and the lengthy leave of absence provides some unique challenges for the coaching staff.
Travel itinerary is laid out months in advance, but it’s still a priority for head coach Bliss Littler to keep his players’ time occupied while away.
“It just takes a lot of planning to try and stay as busy as you can,” he said, “and at the same time, you’re trying to conserve your energy so you have energy come Friday and Saturday night.”
Between team meals, workouts, ice time and evening activities, the Wild players have had enough to keep them busy on what has been their second extended road stint this fall.
Wenatchee (5-5-0 overall) — which caps off the circuit with a doubleheader against the Soo Eagles (3-5-3 overall) beginning today — has had to grown accustomed to life on the road early on. It has been away from the Town Toyota Center all season long, with the exception of the home opener, a doubleheader against the Minot Minotauros.
The season-opening road stint included a four-game showcase in Minnesota and a trip to Bismarck, N.D.
This time around, the Wild are competing against North American Hockey League North Division opponents.
They suffered a two-game sweep at the hands of the Port Huron Fighting Falcons last weekend, but played the veteran host team tough, Littler said.
Wenatchee outshot Port Huron 67-43 in the series, but made some costly mistakes, trailed the majority of the time in both contests and was outscored 7-4.
“We should’ve walked out of there with four points,” the second-year coach said. “We outplayed them both nights, but you can’t play catch-up hockey.”
The upcoming tilt with Soo will present its own set of difficulties for the Wild.
The Eagles don’t have the winning pedigree of Port Huron (9-2-2 overall), but spending two weeks away from home can be burdensome.
“It’s just something these kids are not used to doing,” Littler said. “(But) they’ll get used to it.”
On the bright side, Wenatchee gets to return to friendly confines after this weekend and will have the advantage of playing in front of a home crowd for consecutive series for the first time this season.
“When we get back, I think (the players will) realize how special Wenatchee is,” Littler said.