WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee Wild will once again have their work cut out for them as they prepare for another home series against another one of the division’s top teams. But that’s just fine with head coach Bliss Littler.
“I think it’s awesome,” the bench boss said of the upcoming doubleheader against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, which starts tonight. “You get to find out where you’re at with the other teams in the division.”
Fairbanks (10-5-0 overall) has plenty of carryover from a team that finished second in the North American Hockey League West Division behind the Wild last year, including five defensemen, a goalie, and forward Kyle Lee, who leads the team with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists).
But Wenatchee (5-8-2 overall), which sits in last place in the revamped Midwest division, isn’t shying away from the challenge: It’s embracing it.
Really, there’s no reason to believe the Wild won’t hold their own this weekend. Sure, they enter today’s match-up carrying a seven-game losing streak, but they haven’t exactly been pushovers in that dogged stretch.
Four of those seven defeats were by one goal, and two were in extra time, including a 4-3 shootout loss against the Kenai River Brown Bears last week.
Moreover, they outshot Kenai River (12-3-0 overall) 114-82 in last week’s triple-header.
They didn’t pick up any victories, but they’re creating opportunities and have been competitive on a nightly basis, and that’s an encouraging sign.
The key for Wenatchee this weekend will be whether or not it can find a way to cut down on mistakes.
“I would say that it was more about the mistakes we made that cost us,” Littler said of last weekend’s homestand, “because we definitely created enough chances to win, and I think we need to be a little bit smarter.”
The second-year coach chalks those miscues up to inexperience — the Wild field one of the youngest rosters in the league. At some point, you’d expect fortune to smile on the scrappy core of NAHL newcomers if they continue to battle and create scoring chances.
One thing’s for sure — Wenatchee isn’t hanging its head, despite enduring a series of disheartening setbacks early this season.
“It’s move on, it’s whose the next game against and try to get better that week,” Littler said. “So when we play this weekend, we’re hoping to be better than we were the prior weekend.”
The Wild know they will have their hands full against Fairbanks, but Littler has seen enough of resilience to head into this series with an air of optimism.
“This is a great weekend for us, a great test,” he said. “I think we’re going to find out a little bit more where we’re at, and hopefully we can eliminate some of those mistakes we made last weekend, and maybe make one or two more plays and see if that’s enough.”