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GF Tribune: Great Falls rink gets roughly 20K from Tippin concert

GF Tribune: Great Falls rink gets roughly 20K from Tippin concert

By Steve Schreck, sschreck@greatfallstribune.com 

July 22, 2016

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Country musician Aaron Tippin recently visited Great Falls for a concert fundraiser at Centene Stadium.

The event was a home run, and it might have well tipped things in the favor of the Great Falls IcePlex as far as remaining viable for the foreseeable future.

Jim Keough, the owner of the Great Falls Americans who is on the board of directors for the Great Falls Community Ice Foundation, said the rink received nearly $20,000 from that Sunday night less than two weeks ago.

“That went very well,” Keough said. “I want to thank the community, the baseball club and everyone who helped out.”

Just this Monday, a new ice plant – the old one was malfunctioning at too high of a rate – was delivered, which is good news for hockey players and figure skaters.

The money raised from the concert, Keough said, contributed greatly to the purchase of such an expensive and integral item that is essential to the sustainability of any ice rink.

“We are really excited to have that ice plant because it just makes it so much easier,” he said. “It will be more efficient and use less electricity, which eliminates some of the costs. Looking into the future, it should really work for quite a few years.”

While there are other improvements to be made, namely improving the outdated locker rooms, Keough is certain the rink is here to stay. NorthWestern Energy, he said, recently donated light poles that will help in getting lights up and running in the parking lot outside the ice rink, atop Gore Hill, which will quell concerns over safety.

Meanwhile, the Great Falls Americans’ season starts in mid-September. For the past several seasons, head coach Jeff Heimel and Co. have had to begin practice in Helena because the ice is not ready in Great Falls.

Keough predicts a similar outcome this year, estimating that the rink will open to the team in late August.

“We just have to do the best with what we have,” he said. “We might have to go to Helena for three or four days and rent ice, and that’s fine, too.”

What’s been more than fine the past several seasons is the success of the Americans, a junior hockey team that last season advanced all the way to the semifinals of their league’s national tournament.

“It’s given us so much credibility as a team, as an organization,” Keough said. “I think we are going to have another tremendous team this year.”

Despite some moments of uncertainty and a few close-to-dire calls for help, the rink, like the Americans, appears to be on an upward trajectory.

“It’s going 100 percent in the right direction as far as getting things done,” Keough said. “I think when Great Falls looks at it as a community, they have to be really proud of the Great Falls Americans but also proud of that ice arena.”

Story Courtesy of the Great Falls Tribune>

Great Falls defenseman Link makes college commitment to North Dakota junior college

Great Falls defenseman Link makes college commitment to North Dakota junior college

By Kevin Scott

GREAT FALLS, Mont., June 9, 2016 — The Great Falls Americans of the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) are pleased to announce that defenseman Reed Link has decided to continued his education and hockey career at the collegiate level.

Link, a 21-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri, will attend Dakota College of Bottineau and play for the Lumberjacks hockey team located in Bottineau, North Dakota beginning in the 2016-17 season. The junior college team is part of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) that won the 2016 NJCAA National Men’s Hockey Championship in February in Binghamton, New York where they defeated Erie (NY) Community College 4-3 in overtime in the title game.

Reed just completed his third season of junior hockey for the Great Falls Americans including one season while they were still members of the American West Hockey League (AWHL). Statistically, this past season was his best as he finished with 30 points (7 goals and 23 assists) in 47 appearances.

The 6’0” and 170 lb. hockey standout played in 105 career regular season contests for the Americans along with 44 points and a +75 rating. He also played in 18 playoff games and was a key member of back-to-back NA3HL Frontier Divisional championships.

The Great Falls squad finished the regular season with a 34-11-2 record with 18 wins at the Great Falls Ice Plex. After sweeping the Bozeman Ice Dogs in the semifinals and the Yellowstone (WY) Quake in the Frontier Finals, the Americans went 2-2 at the 2016 Silver Cup Championship Tournament in Illinois in March including an appearance in the semifinals where they fell to the Metro (MI) Jets, 5-4.

The college bound freshman was happy about his accomplishments with Great Falls this season. “The biggest achievements we had while I played for the Americans were winning back-to-back divisional titles,” said an excited Reed Link.

“Playing at the Junior A level (of hockey) gets you ready physically and gets you used to the speed of the game at the college level,” said the outgoing junior player as a way that playing junior hockey helped him prepare for his next phase of hockey.

The Missouri product thought highly of the coaching staff during his time with the Americans. “Jeff Heimel and the coaching staff gave us all the confidence in the world to be successful and at every practice they were on us to do all of the little things right. The coaching staff were great leaders in every aspect of the game.”

The undeclared major will take some time figuring out what he wants to pursue as a career and will be taking general study courses the first year at the North Dakota school in the fall. Until then, he is looking forward to playing hockey for four more years at a higher level and getting his education.

“Playing in Great Falls was one of the best experiences I have had in my junior hockey career,” said Link. “Developing friendships with the different players that come into the program every year that step up and play hard.”

Reed Link’s career statistics for the Great Falls Americans can be viewed by clicking here.

Click here for a full listing of NA3HL college commitments.

NA3HL News: NA3HL announces divisional alignment, events for 2016-17 season

NA3HL announces divisional alignment, events for 2016-17 season

By NA3HL

FRISCO, TX., June 2, 2016 –The North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) has announced its teams, divisional alignment and events for the 2016-17 season.  The 48-team league will be divided into eight divisions (Central, Coastal, East, Frontier, Midwest, Northeast, South, and West) and will include teams in 22 states, stretching from Montana to Maine.

The NA3HL will be entering its seventh season in 2016-17 and serves as one of the top training grounds in the country by providing the best coaching, exposure and developmental vehicles available for student-athletes in its classification. During the 2015-16 season, over 100 NA3HL players made college commitments in the NCAA and ACHA.

2016-17 NA3HL Event Schedule:

NA3HL Showcase: Schwan Super Rink, Blaine, MN – December 16-18, 2016 (all 48 NA3HL teams)

NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament: USA Hockey Arena, Plymouth, MI – February 26-28, 2017

NA3HL Silver Cup Championship: Canlan Ice Sports, Romeoville, IL – March 29-April 2, 2017

The NA3HL has added 14 teams for the 2016-17 that are in addition to the 34 teams that played during the 2015-16 season.  13 of those teams were added back on March 4th when the NA3EHL announced that it was merging to join the NA3HL. The NA3HL also recently announced that the Missoula Junior Bruins had were accepted as the league’s 48th team and eighth team in the Frontier Division.

“The NA3HL set new records for scout attendance last season and our priority is to build on that momentum. With 48 teams in the League, our exceptional events will continue to showcase players and attract college scouts from across the country,” said NA3HL Commissioner Denny Scanlon.

Central Division (5 teams): Chicago Bulldogs, La Crosse Freeze, North Iowa Bulls, Rochester Ice Hawks, Wisconsin Whalers.

Coastal Division (7 teams): Cape Cod Islanders, East Coast Minutemen, L/A Fighting Spirit, Long Beach Sharks, Maine Wild, New England Stars, Northeast Generals.

East Division (6 teams): Metro Jets, Pittsburgh Vengeance, Southern Tier Xpress, Toledo Cherokee, West Michigan Wolves, Wooster Oilers.

Frontier Division (8 teams): Billings Bulls, Bozeman Icedogs, Gillette Wild, Glacier Nationals, Great Falls Americans, Helena Bighorns, Missoula Junior Bruins, Yellowstone Quake.

Midwest Division: (5 teams): Cincinnati Thunder, Evansville Jr. Thunderbolts, Nashville Jr. Predators, Peoria Mustangs, St. Louis Jr. Blues.

Northeast Division (6 teams): Binghamton Jr. Senators, Jersey Shore Wildcats, Lockport Express, Roc City Royals, Skylands Kings, Syracuse Stampede.

South Division (6 teams): Atlanta Capitals, College Station Spirit, Euless Jr. Stars, Louisiana Drillers, Point Mallard Ducks, Texas Jr. Brahmas.

West Division (5 teams): Alexandria Blizzard, Breezy Point North Stars, Granite City Lumberjacks, New Ulm Steel, Willmar (MN).

Click here to view the entire NA3HL article and the list of division alignments for the upcoming 2016-17 season.

NA3HL: 2016 NA3HL Draft slated for June 14th

The 2016 NA3HL Draft is slated for June 14th

By Kevin Scott

FRISCO, TX., June 1, 2016 –The 2016 NA3HL Entry Draft will take place on Tuesday, June 14th at 4:00 pm (Mountain) and will be conducted online at the NA3HL official website.

In addition to the league website, fans can also follow each selection on the NA3HL Twitter Feed (@NA3HL) and for the first time ever can listen to the free live broadcast of the draft at FastHockey.

The eight round draft is for amateur players less than 21 years of age on December 31, 2016 who are not listed on an NA3HL team roster or are listed on an NA3HL team roster but played 10 games or less in the NA3HL regular season and/or playoff games during the 2015-16 season and did not accept a tender from an NA3HL team prior to the draft are eligible to be selected.

For the 2016 NA3HL Draft Order and other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about the draft, please click here to view the full league article.

NA3HL News: Missoula Jr. Bruins accepted into the NA3HL

Missoula Junior Bruins accepted into the NA3HL

By NA3HL

FRISCO, TX., May 31, 2016 — The North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) has announced that it has approved a new expansion team, the Missoula Junior Bruins, to begin play in the 2016-17 season in Missoula, Montana.

Missoula, a former AWHL market prior to its merger with the NA3HL in 2013-14, lies directly in the heart of the NA3HL Frontier Division footprint of Montana and Wyoming, which will now consist of eight teams. The Junior Bruins will be the league’s 48th member club overall.

“The city of Missoula has a fantastic hockey community and tradition, and it fits perfectly into the NA3HL’s Frontier division,” said NA3HL Commissioner Denny Stanlon.

The team is owned and operated by Jason and Liz DiMatteo. The team will play its home games out of Glacier Ice Rink. Glacier Ice Rink is located on the grounds of the Missoula County Fairgrounds. The Missoula Area Youth Hockey Association (MAYHA), a nonprofit organization, operates the rink.

Click here to view the entire article on the NA3HL League Website.

 

Great Falls goaltender Stephan set to play at Concordia College in the fall

Great Falls goaltender Stephan set to play at Concordia College in the fall

By Kevin Scott

GREAT FALLS, Mont., May 4, 2016 — Jake Stephan, a goaltender for the Great Falls Americans of the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) recently made a commitment to play hockey at the NCAA Division III level.

Stephan, 20, a 6’0” and 185 lb. net minder from Eagle River, Wisconsin will join the Concordia College men’s hockey team located in Moorhead, Minnesota in the fall of 2016. The Cobbers are members of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAC).

In his lone season with Great Falls during the 2015-16 season, the 20-year-old boasted a record of 16-4-1 in 23 regular season appearances. He finished with 591 saves and had a save percentage of 0.926, which ranked 7th in the NA3HL for coach Jeff Heimel’s squad. Great Falls finished the regular season with a 34-11-2 record and a playoff berth.

Previously, he played for the Metro (Michigan) Jets of the NA3HL during the 2014-15 season before a stint with the North American Hockey League’s Michigan Warriors.

Jake helped lead his team to a Frontier Division championship in 2016 with a 2-0 series win over the Cody, Wyoming based Yellowstone Quake in the Frontier Divisional Finals after sweeping the Bozeman Ice Dogs in the Divisional Semifinals. Great Falls advanced to the NA3HL Silver Cup Tournament in March in Illinois where they went 2-2 in the round robin national tournament and made it to the semifinals.

The Wisconsin native was also one of four Americans who were selected and played in the 2016 Top Prospects Tournament in Michigan in February. The team was guided by Americans coach Jeff Heimel. He played in four games at the prestigious tournament, which attracted many scouts and college coaches. He ended the tournament with 47 saves on 50 shots.

The college bound freshman was happy about his achievements with Great Falls this season. “I managed to stay high in the league rankings, both (fellow teammate and goaltender Lauren) Massie and I did,” said Stephan. “I had a really good wins-loss record which I was really excited about and I had fun in Montana.”

Playing at the junior level of hockey really helped him develop as a player. Just being on the ice every day and knowing the rest of the team wanted the same thing (a league championship) as he did was a recipe for success.

The Business Marketing major is really excited to play for Concordia University head coach Chris Howe and experience college and continue to play hockey at the next level.

“I enjoyed my time in Great Falls playing with the Great Falls Americans and my host family was excellent. Great Falls is a great place to play junior hockey,” said the former Great Falls American.

Click here to view Jake Stephan’s statistics for the 2015-16 season.

Click here for a full listing of NA3HL college commitments.

Americans defenseman Giorgione signs with NCAA school in Wisconsin

Americans defenseman Giorgione signs with NCAA school in Wisconsin

By Kevin Scott

GREAT FALLS, Mont., April 22, 2016 — A defenseman that played for the Great Falls Americans Junior A hockey team for the past two seasons (2014-2016) has decided to continue his hockey career and education at the college level beginning this fall.

Miles Giorgione, a 5’10” defenseman from Anchorage, Alaska, will join the Marian University men’s hockey team located in Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin in the fall of 2016. The Sabres, an NCAA Division III school, is a member of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA).

Giorgione played the previous two seasons for the North American 3 Hockey League’s (NA3HL) Great Falls Americans where he played a key role for the two-time Frontier Division champions.

During the 2015-16 regular season, he scored 21 points by scoring five goals and dishing out 16 assists in 33 appearances. He gathered an additional goal and three assists in the eight American playoff games. The Americans swept the Bozeman Ice Dogs in two games in the Divisional Semi-finals followed by a two-game sweep over the regular season champions in the Frontier Division, the Yellowstone Quake in the Divisional Finals giving them a berth in the NA3HL Silver Cup Tournament in Illinois. Great Falls went 2-2 at the round robin national tournament including an appearance in the semifinals and had an overall record of 40-13-2.

The newest college recruit was also a member of the Frontier Division squad at the 2015 Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan two seasons ago where he played in three games under Great Falls Americans head coach Jeff Heimel. The prestigious tournament attracted many scouts and college coaches to the annual three-day tournament.

“The biggest accomplishment this season for me was making it to the Silver Cup tournament for two straight years and then winning the Frontier Divisional in back-to-back years,” said Giorgione.

The Alaska native will major in Homeland Security at the Wisconsin school. He looks forward to trying to balance school and hockey and it will be an adjustment from playing at the junior level to a higher level at college.

He wanted to thank coach Jeff Heimel and team owner Jim Keough and the entire Americans organization for helping him get to where he wanted to be in his hockey career.

Click here to view Miles Giorgione’s statistics.

Click here for a full listing of NA3HL college commitments.

Country music’s Aaron Tippin to play concert to benefit Ice Plex

Great Falls Community Ice Foundation: Aaron Tippin concert to benefit Ice Plex

The Great Falls Ice Foundation will be bringing in country music star Aaron Tippin to Great Falls for a concert at Centene Stadium on Sunday, July 10th to benefit the Great Falls Ice Plex for much-needed facility upgrades. The concert at Centene Stadium, home of Great Falls’ minor league baseball team, the Great Falls Voyagers, will go on sale on Monday, May 2nd at the stadium box office. Tickets are limited so get yours today!!!

The proceeds will go towards a new ice chiller for the Ice Plex. General Admission tickets to the 4:00PM concert are $25.00 each for stadium seating or a table of eight on the field for $350.00. A server for food and non-alcoholic beverages and a beer cart that will be available on the field. A Kids Fun Zone is also provided. 

A jersey worn and signed by former Great Falls Americans (#8) Pat Dwyer will be auctioned off during the LIVE Auction.

More information will be available closer to the event.  For more information and to get tickets, please contact Centene Stadium at 406-452-5311 or www.gfvoyagers.com . Centene Stadium is located at 1015 25th Street North, Great Falls, MT 59401.

USEFUL LINKS: 

Directions to Centene Stadium  l Stadium Seating Chart for concert

Support the Rink: Aaron Tippin Concert Flyer (PDF) 

Aaron Tippin Concert Flyer 2 (PDF)

Facebook: Aaron Tippin for ICE 

Aaron Tippin Official Website

GF Tribune: Aaron Tippin to play Great Falls

Purchase Online Tickets: Starting May 2nd


 

Great Falls Community Ice Foundation: Other Upcoming Events

Mighty Mo Brewing Company: Raise A Pint Night for Ice Plex

The Great Falls Ice Foundation is teaming up with the Mighty Mo Brewing Company for a “Raise the Pint” event on Monday, May 16th. The event on Monday night will benefit and support the needs of the Great Falls Ice Plex. Come to the Mighty Mo Brewing Company from5:00PM until 8:00PM and the brewing company will donate $1.00 for every pint sold during this time period. 


10th Annual Rick Heck Memorial Golf Scramble

The Great Falls Ice Foundation will be conducting their “10th Annual Rick Heck Memorial Golf Scramble” on Saturday, June 18th at the Anaconda Hills Golf Course. Registration begins at 7:45AM in the morning with the golf scramble slated to start at 8:30AM. Call 727-7409 for more information and to reserve your team’s spot. Sign up TODAY before they fill up!!!

The Pit Stop Tavern will have a silent auction, a 50/50 drawing, and a raffle ticket drawing to win an IPAD Air.

Click here to view a flyer for the Fundraiser events (PDF).

GF Tribune: Heimel signs 2-year deal with Great Falls Americans

GF Tribune: Heimel signs 2-year deal with Great Falls Americans

By Steve Schreck, sschreck@greatfallstribune.com 

April 13, 2016

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Great Falls Americans head coach Jeff Heimel has signed a two-year contract with the Tier III Junior A hockey program, owner Jim Keough said Tuesday.

“We’re really excited about that because anytime you get a good coach like that, you want to hang on to him,” Keough said. “It’s obvious that he’s one of the best young coaches in the country.”

Heimel, a Saint Paul, Minn., native, recently concluded his fourth season in Great Falls.

“Excited,” Heimel said. “I’ve been here long enough that if I didn’t like it here, I certainly wouldn’t have extended my contract (laughs). There’s a lot of familiarity here in Great Falls. We’ve done such a great job building up a program that’s been successful.

“I don’t know why I’d want to make a move unless it was something clearly a step up level wise. I just think we have good ownership; we just have a lot of good things that obviously matter at this level. Pretty excited.”

Said Keough: “His contract was up and we did some negotiation. He wants a national trophy. We’re almost there. We’re getting there.”

Coaching his squad to a 41-13-2 record this past season and a semifinal appearance in the North American 3 Hockey League’s Silver Cup Tournament, Heimel has resuscitated the organization, an organization that won one game five seasons ago.

“It’s hard to put into words because we were one of the worst teams in the country,” Keough said. “And now, where we ended up, it’s just a tremendous turnaround, and it’s almost all Jeff. He’s done a tremendous job recruiting, building good character out of these young men.”

The Americans have won back-to-back Frontier Division titles, made the trip to the Silver Cup in consecutive years and compiled a record of 133-68-11 in the past four seasons – all under the direction of Jeff Heimel, who alongside his wife, Megan, and two young sons, Christian and Preston, have grown to call Great Falls home.

“What a blessing he is to us,” Keough said.

Before the American West Hockey League merged with the NA3HL in 2014, Heimel was named the AWHL’s Coach of the Year for the 2013-14 season, and in his first season the Americans were chosen as the AWHL’s Organization of the Year for their impressive turnaround, winning 16 games after that one-win campaign.

The head coach’s next goal, a goal that helped in extending his stay two more years in Great Falls: win the Silver Cup in Chicago.

“Getting as close as we did, being right there, it was definitely on my mind in extending the contract,” Heimel said. “You can probably drive yourself crazy thinking about what if and this and that, but I feel like before I would ever make a decision to go anywhere else, I feel like I’d want to win a championship. I think it’s important. The city of Great Falls has put a lot of effort into this team and supported this team well.”

Seven players will not return to the Americans next season because their eligibility has been exhausted, and perhaps more will continue their hockey careers elsewhere.

Still, Heimel expects to have a talented bunch.

“It’s kind of one of those things where the goal’s always been to move players, but there are enough guys that have been here and we’re going to get a decent number of returners back,” Heimel said. “Wherever guys end up, whether it’s at a higher level or here, I know we’ll have enough guys that understand what we went through and what the goal is and kind of have an itch to get back there and win.”

Story Courtesy of the Great Falls Tribune>

American standouts Congdon and Bernhards among NA3HL award winners

American standouts Congdon and Bernhards among NA3HL award winners

By Kevin Scott

FRISCO, TX., April 7, 2016 — The Great Falls Americans, who just finished their second year in the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL), had two individual players selected for league honors during the 2015-16 season.

The league awards include Most Valuable Player, Forward of the Year, Defenseman of the Year, Goaltender of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, General Manager of the Year and Organization of the Year. Other awards that were recognized this year were the All-NA3HL 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and All-Rookie teams, Community Service and Academic Award winners as voted on by the league’s coaches and general managers, based upon performance during the 2015-16 regular season.

During this season, the league expanded their awards to recognize amongst each division with All-Divisional Teams, Most Valuable Player divisional awards, Forward of the Year, Defenseman of the Year, Goaltender of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Community Service and Academic Award winners.

Tanner Congdon, the 5’7” forward from Anchorage, Alaska, was named the NA3HL and Frontier Division Rookie of the Year and was also named to the 2015-16 All-NA3HL Rookie First Team. He recorded 23 goals and dished out 41 assists in 44 regular season appearances for the Americans. He scored an additional two goals and provided seven assists in eight playoff games. Congdon also participated in the 2016 Top Prospects Tournament in Plymouth, Michigan in February where he had two assists as a member of the NA3HL 18U Selects Black team.

Ricards Bernhards was awarded the 2015-16 Forward of the Year in the NA3HL’s Frontier Division and a member of the All-Frontier Division Team. The Jelgava, Latvia native was also one of six members named to the All-NA3HL Second Team. The 6’4” forward led the Frontier Division champions in goals scored with 30 and finished with 25 assists including six playoff contests. He also was selected and played in the 2016 Top Prospects Tournament for the 18U Selects Black team where he scored three goals in three games.

2015-16 Season Stats:  Tanner Congdon  l  Ricards Bernhards

Click here to view the official AWHL 2015-16 League Awards announcement and entire list of winners and click here for the 2015-16 Divisional Award winners.