By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., November 6, 2021 — The #3 Great Falls Americans (9-5-2-1) have played the #8 Sheridan (WY) Hawks (2-16-0-0) five games (with four of them in Wyoming) already this season.
The Americans have tasted victory in all of them as they finished off their regular season encounters tonight for the sixth and final time this season. Great Falls has not allowed more than four goals against the team they have played against the most during the first 17 games this year.
During Friday’s performance, the Americans led 1-0 after the first period and scored two goals in each of the final two periods to earn their first shutout of the season. The 5-0 win gave starting netminder Zac Hattan his second victory in three contests as he stopped all 19 shots. Jackson Henningsgard, Petr Van Voorhis, Micah Serino, Garrett Weisenburger, and Silas Hughes all lit up the lamp over Sheridan goalie Bo Buckley. The win moved the Americans by the Bozeman Ice Dogs (8-5-2-0) for third place as the Ice Dogs fell on Friday evening to the top team in the Frontier Division, the undefeated Gillette Wild (15-0-0-0) 5-3 in Bozeman, Montana.
The Great Falls Americans almost let their lead slip away as the home team led 4-3 entering the third frame. Great Falls took a 5-3 advantage early in the third, but the Americans racked up four goals and held on for a 9-4 win to solidify third place in the Frontier Division during Saturday’s hockey action at the Great Falls Ice Plex. Netminder Zac Hattan went 2-0 on the weekend as he recorded 37 saves in the victory.
The Americans started the first period strong as they connected on three scoring drives. Daniel Crutcher scored his fourth goal that was made possible by Henry Fusco and Jay Alford, who made their eleventh and sixth assists, respectively with 17:12 remaining. Billings native Patrick Crooks netted his second goal midway through the stanza. The play was assisted by Thomas Dalsin and Noel Rahn and stretched the lead for the home team to 2-0. After the second goal was scored, the Hawks traded out goaltenders as starter Thomas Kuriscak was replaced by Bo Buckley. Forward Hunter Maschke added the third goal with help from Micah Serino and Tae Evans late in the period. The Hawks would not be held scoreless as Taylor Frerichs hit the back of the net with 24 seconds left for his first score of the season for head coach Andy Scheib’s team. Wyatt Noble and Caden McDonald each had their second assist of the season to cut the deficit to 3-1. Four goals were made from 35 total shots attempted.
Three minutes into the second period, Jackson Henningsgard picked up his thirteenth assist and Tyler Sunagel received his eleventh assist as their pass to Silas Hughes was successful. Hughes, one of seven players from Alaska, contributed his fourth goal in his first year with Great Falls. The power play opportunity put the Americans up 4-1. Sheridan trailed by one as the period expired. Cooper Bergman, a forward from Jamestown, New York, and Caden McDonald of New Richmond, Wisconsin, were the recipients of two goals for the visiting team during the last four minutes of action. Nathan Awoyemi, Taylor Frerichs, Ben Lavigne, and Mason Friedricks added the helpers. Both teams combined for 25 shots and the Americans held just a two-shot advantage after both periods, 31-29.
The third period remained 4-3 until 9:06 ran off the clock and Great Falls increased their lead by two goals (5-3). The Americans fifth goal was made by Jackson Henningsgard as his shot sailed by the Hawks goalie Bo Buckley. Both teams traded goals as Taylor Frerichs scored with 1:52 left to go for Sheridan with assistance from forward Mason Friedricks and goaltender Bo Buckley. The one goal lead (5-4) did not last long as 11 seconds later, Great Falls’ Tae Evans buried the puck in the net to make the score 6-4. Just as fast as the Americans scored (11 seconds), Micah Serino lit up the lamp. Tae Evan picked up his second of nine total assists on the season while Hunter Maschke produced his eleventh. The Americans were not done scoring as they scored twice more in the final 23 seconds including Jackson Henningsgard’s second goal of the night (and period) via an empty net. Prior to the goal, the Hawks pulled their goaltender to add another defensive threat. Just as time was to expire, Patrick Crooks, one of four Montanans on the roster, amassed his second goal of the night and third overall to end the game on a high note for Great Falls.
Jackson Henningsgard and Patrick Crooks each acquired two goals and Tae Evans answered with one score and one assist for coach Greg Sears’ third place squad. Zac Hattan put on his best effort for the second consecutive night in the net as he made 37 saves in another winning effort. Sheridan’s Taylor Frerichs led the way for the Wyoming team with one goal in the first period and a final goal in the final stanza.
The Americans outshot the Hawks in two of the three periods on Saturday night and finished with 48. The Hawks created 15 shots in the first and combined for 26 in the last forty minutes to end their trip to Montana with 41.
Seven minor infractions were reported in the second game of their weekend series between these two clubs. The Americans cashed in on one of their two power plays on Silas Hughes’ score in the middle period. The Hawks failed to provide any goals on their three attempts.
For the second consecutive night, Zac Hattan made sure his name will be mentioned in Tuesday’s weekly NA3HL Stars of the Week nominations for the Frontier Division. Hattan’s third win of the season came as he stopped 37 of the 41 shots that were created by Sheridan’s offense.
Bo Buckley started on Friday for Sheridan, and he finished the second contest of the weekend. Thomas Kuriscak played the first nine minutes before being replaced by Buckley. Kuriscak, who calls Minnesota his home state, allowed two goals and gathered eleven saves. Buckley played the final two and a half periods by redirecting 28 of the 33 shots.
NOTES: The top two teams in the NA3HL’s Frontier Division continued their dominance as both teams are still undefeated in division play. The Gillette (WY) Wild, the #1 team in the entire North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL), kept their undefeated streak alive and won their 16th game by downing the #4 Bozeman Ice Dogs, who entered the week as the third seed before being replaced by the Americans, 9-4 (box score). Great Falls’ opponent on Sunday, November 14th, the #2 Helena Bighorns throttled the #7 Yellowstone (WY) Quake, 16-2 as they cruised to their fifteenth victory (box score). Click here for the current league standings.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will continue their rivalry against the Helena Bighorns on Sunday, November 14th to finish off their sixth home game in seven games. The action on Sunday afternoon starts at 1:00PM (MST) from the Great Falls Ice Plex. Fans that can’t make it in person can still see the game on HockeyTV with Megan Lewis doing the play-by-play and the commentary.