By Kevin Scott
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HELENA, Mont., December 4, 2020 — The Great Falls Americans (13-2-0-0) was supposed to battle the Butte Cobras today when the schedule came out in September but the Coronavirus (COVID-19) issues with the Cobras team prevented that from happening so the Helena Bighorns (2-9-0-0) was added to their schedule earlier this week.
Since Great Falls and Helena last saw each other on the ice in the third game of the season back on October 9th, the Americans have gone 9-2 since their initial encounter (3-2 win for Great Falls at home) with two losses coming at the hands of the Missoula Junior Bruins, who are ranked third in the Frontier Division behind Great Falls and the Sheridan Hawks, with a 9-4-2-0 record. Helena, on the other hand, has struggled during the first part of the season winning two of their eleven contests with one win coming against the Gillette Wild and another against the Missoula Junior Bruins in the month of November. Earlier this week, the Bighorns made a coaching change by letting go longtime coach Bob Richards and replacing him with assistant coach Damon Hanson to lead Helena for the rest of the 2020-21 season.
A week after falling to the Missoula Junior Bruins for their second loss (and the only team to hand the Americans two setbacks) of the 2020-21 season, the Great Falls Americans bounced back with their 13th win of the season and second against the Helena Bighorns by producing one goal in each of three regulation periods to hold on for a 3-2 win over their NA3HL rivals (and closest competitors) on Friday afternoon at the Helena Ice Arena.
Forward Henry Chavez put the Americans on the scoreboard first with his sixth goal of the season eleven minutes into the first period. Chavez, a San Jose, California product, was assisted by Harley Nyhuis and Jake Hayes, who also earned an assist in the second period. One goal was accumulated on 20 shots for the visitors while Helena accrued 13 shots.
The Bighorns needed 14 minutes of the second stanza before evening up the score. Andrew MacCallum, a first-year player for Helena, netted his second goal for the Bighorns with assists going to Corbin Skinner and Dane Rieger. Harley Nyhuis and the Americans offense needed 3:33 to regain the lead back as the returning forward’s shot sailed by Helena netminder Anthony Adleman for this seventh goal. Teammates Henry Chavez and Jakes Hayes provided the assistance. Great Falls attempted 20 shots after the first intermission. Helena obtained 19.
The top team in the Frontier Division jumped out to a 3-1 advantage 72 seconds into the third frame when Alex Jackson and Kellen Harris set up Cole Komarek’s eighth scoring drive of the season. Jackson garnered his 15th assist and currently leads the Americans in goals (11) scored and assists. Great Falls allowed Helena’s offense to put the biscuit in the basket one more time before the period expired. Andrew MacCallum scored his second and final goal with 11:33 left. Gavyn Galloway and Wyatt Hanson each earned one assist.
After taking 40 shots before the second intermission, Great Falls tacked on 12 more in the third period to end the afternoon with 52. Helena had a team-high 19 in the middle period to finish with 50.
Despite the loss, Helena accumulated the only power play score (1-for-3) with Andrew MacCallum’s second period score coming with Great Falls in the penalty box. The American came up empty in their three attempts. Most of the penalties came in the middle period when things got heated between these two junior hockey franchises. All three of Great Falls’ infractions came in that period with 27 minutes of time spent off the ice. The Bighorns were charged with four minor infractions.
Forwards Cole Komarek, Henry Chavez and Harley Nyhuis all lit up the lamp to get the Americans back on the winning track. Jake Hayes earned assists on two of those scores. Andrew MacCallum led the way for Helena by scoring both goals.
Trever Mellen was victorious in the net for the eleventh time this season as he swatted away 48 of Helena’s 50 shots after having a flawless first period. Rookie Anthony Adleman, who fell to 1-5-0-0 in seven appearances, amassed 49 saves in the first loss for Damon Hanson as the head coach.
NEXT CONTEST: The Americans will get more familiar with the Bighorns this week as they face each other two more times in the next seven days including one more road game in the Capital City starting with a 7:05PM matchup at the Helena Ice Arena on Saturday, December 5th with the Americans rounding out the week with a Friday night meeting on December 11th beginning at 7:30PM from the Great Falls Ice Plex.
All games can be seen on the NA3HL League streaming service, HockeyTV.
HockeyTV is on a variety of different devices including some Smart TV’s, Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Android devices and web browsers including Google Chrome, FireFox and Safari with a paid subscription. Click here if you would like more information about subscribing to Hockey TV (All Access).
Additional Media Coverage: December 4, 2020: 560AM-KMON: Weekly Radio Interview by KMON’s Randy Bogden with Great Falls Americans Head Coach Greg Sears every Friday morning. Click here to listen to the full interviews.
Additonal Media Coverage: December 4, 2020: 406 MT Sports: Great Falls Americans knock off Helena Bighorns