Taylor Shaw has been named the new head coach and general manager of the Gillette Wild, replacing Steve Kruk, who was fired last week.
Shaw, 25, was hired last year and served as an assistant and goalie coach for the Wild before the move. He is the fourth head coach in Wild history.
“It’s just staying focused on the task at hand and keeping the guys on track,” Shaw said about handling the mid-season transition. “To be honest, I haven’t thought too much about it other than just trying to still take care of business.”
Shaw, who played as a goalie growing up in Sartell, Minnesota, started coaching bantam hockey in Minnesota at age 19. He served as an assistant coach at Proctor High School in Minnesota before taking a job with the Wild last year.
Shaw also teaches economics for Minnesota Connections Academy, an online K-12 school.
“We’re just trying to make the transition as easy as we can for the players, as opposed to looking for somebody that nobody knows,” Wild owner Dwayne Dillinger said. “He’s shown a lot of maturity in the position and he’s done a really good job in the year and a half that he was here.”
He replaces Kruk, who was in his second year as head coach of the program and hired Shaw as an assistant.
Kruk was suspended from the North American Tier III Hockey League (NA3HL) for four games after he shouted something at the Yellowstone Quake coaching staff at the end of a game Nov. 23.
A referee asked him to leave after he shouted, Kruk said. Kruk said he didn’t argue with the referee to get handed a suspension, as was previously reported, and he was disappointed that the Wild didn’t contest the suspension.
The Wild ownership chose to release Kruk on Wednesday morning instead of letting him return to coach after the suspension.
“I’m disappointed. I wish the organization well. Ultimately, I’m going to miss my players,” Kruk said. “Outside of a couple of them, I recruited the whole team.
“Those players believed in me, gave me a chance, and their parents gave me a chance. And to ultimately not be able to fulfill a commitment that I made to the players and their parents, that’s probably the biggest disappointment.”
Kruk said he was not given a reason for his firing, and he’s looking for another job coaching hockey.
“For two years here in Gillette, I’ve preached to my players about embracing adversity. So now I’ve got to do the same thing,” Kruk said.
The Wild started 10-1, including a 10-game winning streak after a loss in the first game of the season. Since then, they’ve lost 10 of their last 14 games. The Bozeman Icedogs swept the Wild in two games last weekend, 6-3 and 5-3.
“We’re not looking to implement anything that’s drastically different,” Shaw said. “Just make a couple tweaks here and there and get the team back on track.”
Gillette plays Sheridan on Friday night at Spirit Hall Ice Arena before the team heads to Minnesota for the 2019 NA3HL Showcase from Dec. 15-17.