Photo: Courtesy of Laura Richesin
By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., October 26, 2018 — The biggest hurdle for the 2018-19 edition of the Great Falls Americans (13-2-0-0) has been the team closest to them, (about 90 miles apart), the Helena Bighorns (12-1-0-0), who are the top team (record-wise) in the NA3HL’s Frontier Division with Great Falls sitting not too far behind.
Great Falls has played all six of the Frontier teams at least once since the season began in the middle of September but only Helena has been able to overcome the offensive attack by the Americans – twice to be exact.
On September 29th at the Helena Ice Arena, Great Falls found themselves trailing throughout and ended up with a 7-1 loss. Last Friday (Oct. 19), Great Falls led 2-1 after two periods but let the Bighorns offense score four straight goals in the third period for a 5-2 loss.
Would Great Falls figure out how to get their first win against them on Friday night at the Great Falls Ice Plex?
The second-place Great Falls Americans scored five unanswered goals against the first-place Helena Bighorns before the visiting team answered back but Great Falls offense came alive in their rematch from last week to claim an 8-3 upset win over the previously unbeaten Bighorns during Friday’s action at the Great Falls Ice Plex.
The Great Falls Americans racked up four first period goals against the team they have yet to defeat this season. Jens Juliussen and Jack Olson scored one goal apiece before the midway point of the first period. Matt Janke, Payton McSharry, Levi Mese, and Lindros Beard collected the assists for the second-place Americans. The Americans weren’t done scoring yet as Matt Janke and Great Falls Americans leader in goals scored, Payton McSharry lit up the lamp during Great Falls’ two power play opportunities. McSharry and Juliussen picked up their second assists of the contest while Nate Simpson added one.
The opening twenty minutes saw two penalties by the Bighorns.
It took 86 seconds in the second period for the host team to take a commanding 5-0 lead when Levi Mese found Lindros Beard for his eighth goal of the season. The visiting Bighorns broke into the scoring column as Arizona native Hayden Seitz sailed the puck between the pipes. Ian Mcintosh and JJ Blondin recorded the assists on Helena’s first goal two minutes into the middle period. Minutes later, Garrett Peters put the Americans back ahead by five goals with his goal with 11:12 remaining. Jens Juliussen, the team leader in assists, gathered his third of the evening. Lindros Beard, the forward from Copperton, Utah increased the lead for Great Falls to 7-1 with his second scoring drive of the period. Levi Mese earned his third assist in two periods. Jack Olson also tallied an assist on the final goal before the second intermission. Great Falls ended the period with 15 of their 34 shots taken in the second period. Helena took 28 shots after forty minutes.
The Bighorns scored their second goal on their first successful power play as Elliot Plourde netted a goal with help from Darren Donovan with 13 minutes left in the contest, but the Americans still had a five-goal advantage. The Americans answered back two minutes later when Cody Dearing, who saw action for Great Falls last season, scored his first goal of the 2018-19 season. Ben Rinckey and Nate Simpson accumulated the assists with the home team providing an 8-2 lead. Great Falls and Helena continued to trade goals. Helena’s Valary Dietz was the recipient of the third goal for the first-place Bighorns. The short-handed goal came with 5:44 remaining between these two rivals and neither squad found the back of the net the rest of the way.
Jens Juliussen led the way for Great Falls with four points (1 goal and 3 assists) and Lindros Beard, who was one goal shy of a hat trick, created one assist. Hayden Seitz, Elliot Plourde and Valary Dietz rounded out the scoring for Helena in their first defeat in 13 games.
Great Falls had four penalties resulting in 11 minutes in the penalty box and Helena was penalized six times for 15 minutes. Each team had one major penalty in the third period. Over forty shots were attempted by each team before the final buzzer.
The winning goaltender was Drew Scites, who played the entire game, had 40 saves. Bighorns starting goaltender Carver Thompson last just one period before being replaced by backup Eric Berglund. Thompson and Berglund combined for 37 saves, but Thompson was credited with the loss.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans play their eighth road game of the season and their first game in Missoula, Montana on Saturday, October 27th when they take on the Missoula Jr. Bruins at the Glacier Ice Rink starting at 7:05PM.
Additional Media Coverage: October 28, 2018: Great Falls Tribune: Americans roll to hand Helena first loss of season