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GF Tribune: Junior A Hockey: Americans start hockey season tonight in Havre

GF Tribune: Great Falls Americans start hockey season tonight in Havre (GF Tribune)

 

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

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hockey in Havre starts tonight.

For visiting teams, that is not a good combination.

When people around the game of hockey talk about the happenings inside the Havre Ice Dome, it almost sounds like an urban legend.

“I’ve heard a lot of things about games in Havre,” said Great Falls Americans goalie Evan Hauser, who will get the start on the road tonight against the Glacier Nationals at 5:30 p.m. “I heard they get a little rowdy, so it’ll be pretty interesting to see how that goes. I’m excited … We’re looking to get the win and start the season off on a high note.”

The Americans, which finished last season with a 36-9-3 record in the regular season and lost in the league finals to the Helena Bighorns, start their 2014-15 season tonight. The Nationals relocated to Havre after being in Whitefish in recent years.

“I know that Havre is a market that is itching to get a team,” said Americans head coach Jeff Heimel. “I think it’s going to be a tough building to play in. It’ll be a chaotic atmosphere.”

Heimel says he knows the new head coach Kyle Bailey very well. He is an Alaskan guy who has recruited some good players, and Heimel thinks the Nationals, which finished last season at 19-28-1, will be a stronger team than they were a year ago and that they will be well-coached.

Heimel says he wants to avoid involving the crowd early because of a turnover or a bad goal. It’s tough, he said, to battle back from mistakes like that and get back into the game. Simplifying things is also important – and not turning the puck over at the blue lines.

“Manage the puck,” Heimel said on what they need to do to be successful. “I’m watching our preseason (games) – we just turned the puck over a lot in preseason, and I think decision making. We have a ton of ability. It’s just buying into the system. Especially on the road, keeping it simple. Not trying to do too much, especially early on.”

Special teams, including power play and penalty kill, is also magnified on the road. Heimel says his team was below 20 percent with the man-advantage in the preseason, a number that he would like to stay above. The Americans have the personnel to be very good on the power play, he said. On the other side of things, staying out of the box is just as important.

“I think you’re going to see an atmosphere where it’s easy to get frustrated,” Heimel said. “With the crowd and the other team. I think Glacier last year, they were a physical team. They were chippy in a good way. They just tried to get under your skin a little bit.”

Attached Photo: Courtesy of Rion Sanders, Tribune Photographer

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