34 in 34 NA3HL Preview: Great Falls Americans
Story courtesy of NA3HL.com
The 34 in 34 series will feature an in-depth look into all 34 teams in the NA3HL for the 2015-16 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 34 in 34 goes in-depth into each NA3HL team and will include interviews with all 34 head coaches in the NA3HL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2015-16 season, including taking a look at their potential roster and their strengths as a team for the upcoming season. It will also take a look back on the 2014-15 season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 34 in 34 will provide the fans of the NA3HL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
Click here for more information about the 34 in 34 series.
Great Falls Americans
2014-15 Record: 34-10-3, 71 points (1st in the Frontier Division)
2014-15 Playoffs: Won the Frontier Division, finished 6th in the Silver Cup
Head Coach: Jeff Heimel
2015-16 Division: Frontier
The 2014-15 season was a great one for the Great Falls Americans. The team gutted out a regular season title in the Frontier Division by a single point over the Helena Bighorns and then found themselves matched up again against the Bighorns in the Frontier Division Finals in the Silver Cup Playoffs. The Americans swept the Bighorns and punched their ticket to the Silver Cup Tournament and although the Silver Cup did not turn out the way the team wanted, there was plenty to feel accomplished about for head coach Jeff Heimel and crew. “There was some emotion and disappointment from making it that far and then losing in the Silver Cup, but there is also a big picture there and then it boiled down to that we were able to do some pretty special things last year,” said Heimel.
It was also the best year for college advancement in Heimel’s tenure, which is something that gave the Americans another feather in their cap, but also left a void in the line-up when constructing a team for the 2015-16 season. “We lost a lot up front with the aging out of guys like leading scorer Lucas Lomax and five other forwards that were big contributors, so forward and offense is something that was a priority when we were signing tenders and going through the draft,” said Heimel. Great Falls’ first three draft picks were all forwards.
With that said, the strength of the Americans team at least to start the season, will be the team’s defense. The team returns six defenseman from last season and Heimel stated that goaltending will be strong. Returners along the blueline will be Connor Barta, Miles Giorgione, Hunter Garris, Blake Miller, Arseny Ivanov and Reed Link. “We have a good group of returners that are all good individual, hard workers and all very good, solid defensemen. Most importantly, they have been through the experiences of last season and know what it takes in tough situations,” said Heimel.
In goal, Lauren Massie returns after leading the team in games played last season, along with putting up a 2.14 goals against average and 92.2% save percentage. “Experience is going to be the best indicator and teacher if we can contend for a Silver Cup again and I think that having that experience along the blueline and in goal will be invaluable to us,” said Heimel.
It isn’t all new faces up front as the team returns forward Josh Larson, who played very well in the team’s playoff run last season. “Josh is going to be a big part of our success and will take on a leadership role this year,”said Heimel. “There are a lot of veteran guys like Josh that still have a sour taste in their mouth from the way the Silver Cup ended last year, so I think that will be something that is used as motivation this year,”continued Heimel.