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GF Tribune: Americans top Bulls in Game 1

GF Tribune: Americans top Bulls in Game 1

 

By Steve Schreck, Tribune Sports Writer (sschreck@greatfallstribune.com)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lucas Lomax is a big-time player, so it only made sense that he came up big in the biggest game of the year.

“He took over the game,” Great Falls Americans head coach Jeff Heimel said. “It was fun to watch.”

Lomax scored four goals Thursday night in front of 240 fans at the IcePlex as the Americans took Game 1 of the best-of-3 series with the Billings Bulls, 5-4, in the semifinals of the Frontier Division playoffs.

“Talk about a three-year veteran and a leader and someone who wants it,” Heimel smiled. “That was special. He did a great job.”

Said Lomax: “It was huge. Especially at home. You need the first one. It’s only a best of three series … Having this one win under our belt definitely gives us some momentum.”

Lomax, who upped his goal total to 34 on the year, was asked when the last time he scored four times was.

“I can’t even tell you that,” Lomax grinned. “I can’t remember, but great feeling, I can tell you that much.”

Lomax found the back of the net a minute and 30 seconds into the second period, when Reed Link, near the boards, dropped the puck behind him for Cody Page, who found Lomax backdoor for an easy deflection into a wide open net.

The Americans, who travel to Billings for Game 2 tonight, peppered Billings’ goaltender Cole Semchak with 59 shots on goal. It was the game plan, Heimel said, to get bodies in front of the net minder, something they did more as the game wore on.

“Semchak is a great goalie,” Heimel said. “And if he sees it, he stops it. We’ve been trying to get more traffic (in front of him).”

Billings would respond seven minutes later. Ian Wiljanen gathered a loose puck and skated around the back of the Americans net, beating goalie Lauren Massie to the post, slipping in a wraparound that tied the game at one.

With 7:17 left in the second period, Torin Foundos gave the Bulls a 2-1 lead. Foundos found himself with the puck in the high slot and buried home a shot that got past Massie high, glove side, which rang off the post and in.

Lomax would tie the game less than three minutes later. Josh Larson kept the puck in along the boards and gave the puck to Cody Page. Page’s shot from the slot got through, and Lomax, like a shark out searching for blood all game, scored on the rebound.

With 2:52 left, the Americans won the draw, and Arseny Ivanov blasted a shot from the point. Zack Mese gathered the juicy Semchak rebound and lit the lamp, which gave the Americans a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.

Billings would score two goals in the first three minutes and 30 seconds of the third period, the final goal a coast-to-coast, in-between defenders tally by Sawyer Scanlan that put the Bulls up 4-3 with 16:27 left in the game, which sent Massie to the bench and ended his night. Jordan Moran came in.

“I just felt like we needed a change,” Heimel said. “I felt like it was a turning point in the game, so we made the decision … and (Jordan) stepped in and did well. We needed that.”

Lomax would score minutes later, and then, with five minutes left, scored the game-winning goal. Larson tip-toed around a defender and fed Lomax perfectly in the slot, somewhere he had been all night, and the veteran rifled home a wrist shot glove side.

“It was a blast,” Lomax said. “If you can’t get up for playoff hockey, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

The Americans withstood a furious rally by Billings in the final minute. With its goalie pulled and the extra attacker on the ice, the Bulls had several scoring chances, but the Americans, behind blocked shots and several Moran saves, held on, barely.

“That was probably the longest minute of my life,” Lomax said.

Box Score

Attached Photo: Courtesy of Rion Sanders, Tribune Photographer