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GF Tribune: Americans impressive in season opener

GF Tribune: Americans impressive in season opener

By Steve Schreck, sschreck@greatfallstribune.com 

September 24, 2015

Brendan Jester netted a hat trick in the Great Falls Americans’ first game of the season, but he didn’t even win Player of the Week in the Frontier Division.

That went to his teammate, Tegan Harrington.

“Oh, I was happy for him,” Jester smiled. “He set me up on most of my goals. We are linemates, so I was happy for him.

He paused.

“Maybe I’ll get it next time,” he smirked.

Great Falls’ 12-1 victory last Friday against the Glacier Nationals was as impressive as it was dominating. It’s evident by the fact that Jester, a forward from Anchorage, Alaska, found the back of the net thrice and was one-upped by Harrington, who assisted on three goals and had one for himself. He registered a plus-4.

“I just liked our chemistry,” Jester said. “All four lines were going. Everybody just looked good, fast, making good plays, smart plays and scoring.”

Head coach Jeff Heimel, who in three-plus years behind the bench has compiled a record of 93-55-9, was most happy with his team’s ability to stay within the system and play selfless hockey, not an easy thing to do when the game is essentially decided after one period.

The Americans continue their season Friday and Saturday with games at the Yellowstone Quake, who have yet to play a game.

“I think the big thing there is you can’t let your team develop bad habits,” Heimel said. “It’s not tough for me to coach. I think it can be tough for the players to continually buy in to the system because there’s a tendency to be a little bit more individualistic.

Heimel admitted it was maybe a problem early on in his coaching career, but not anymore. It’s mostly attributed to the veterans in the locker room, he said, and their understanding of the importance to not take nights off.

“We were pretty dialed in,” the head coach said. “We were working on faceoffs, like anything we hadn’t worked on, we were talking about. And I thought they responded well. I thought they competed hard.”

Nine players tallied goals, net minder Lauren Massie stopped 20 of 21 shots as his shutout was spoiled in the final two minutes of the game, and defenseman Arseny Ivanov had a team-best plus-7.

“Yeah, I’ve never seen that,” Jester said of Ivanov’s plus-minus rating. “It was crazy. It felt like every goal celebration, he was coming through the line.”

The Americans outshot Glacier 56-21 and were up 6-0 after the first intermission. Josh Larson, Ricards Bernhards, Malachi Bushey, Steven Goran, Colton Fletcher and Adam Apangalook all scored, while Jesse Johnson buried a pair.

“We played a good hockey game,” Heimel said, “but we played a consistent hockey game and we at no point ever lowered our level of play because of the score, which was good.”