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GF Tribune: Junior A Hockey: Great Falls Americans top Billings

GF Tribune: Junior A Hockey: Great Falls Americans top Billings

 

By Steve Schreck (sschreck@greatfallstribune.com)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

After a 6-1 loss to the Billings Bulls on New Year’s Eve, Great Falls Americans head coach Jeff Heimel said his team was motivated to get another shot at them.

“We were a little, I don’t know if embarrassed is the word, but, you know, pride (showed) a little bit,” Heimel said. “We had a good week of practice and guys were ready to go, and I think it showed tonight.”

The Americans moved to 26-5 on the season Friday night in front of 686 spectators at the IcePlex, where they defeated the Bulls 5-2. Great Falls, which remains in first place in the Frontier Division with the victory, outshot the Bulls 52-29.

“The big focus has been, listen, it’s the second half of the season and we’ve had a good start, obviously, and we know what we’re capable of,” Heimel said. “But they are a potential playoff matchup, and we are tired of giving points away, in my opinion. We need to play our best every night.”

Connor Barta opened the scoring in the first period, when he gathered the puck in the slot and blasted one past Bulls goaltender Cole Semchak, his fourth of the season. The Bulls, though, knotted the score at one just minutes later and that’s what the scoreboard read after the first period.

The Americans – though they did squander a 32-second, 5-on-3 power play to open the second period — controlled most of the play in the second 20, outshooting the Bulls 22-5. Wade Wylie dazzled the crowd with an incredible toe-drag past a defender but couldn’t finish. Just a minute later, Cody Page beat his defender wide and went in all alone but was again stopped.

Even though the Bulls would tie the game at two with just 18 seconds in the second period, Heimel felt that the play during that period sparked his group.

“The second period was big for us,” he said. “ … Once we settled in, especially in the second, it really showed. And obviously it was still only a 2-2 game, but we were rolling and eventually it opened up.”

Lucas Lomax, the Americans’ leading scorer, scored two minutes into the third period. Lomax gathered the puck behind the Bulls’ net, controlled the puck patiently as he skated horizontally through the slot and lifted home a perfect backhand shot that found top shelf, the game-winning goal, his 19th of the season.

“It was big,” Heimel said of Lomax’s goal. “He’s just so good when he continues to move his feet. He’s a dynamic player.”

Austin Krantz, Wade Wylie and Dylan Garton – an empty netter – also scored for the Americans.

Attached Photo: Courtesy of Larry Beckner, Tribune Photographer