NOTE: A Special Thanks to Laurie Russo for providing the photo.
By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., November 27, 2021 — A rematch between the #4 Great Falls Americans (10-9-2-1) and the #6 Badlands (SD) Sabres (8-11-1-0) took place at the Great Falls Ice Plex on Saturday night in Great Falls.
The Americans were trying to bounce back after a disappointing 4-2 loss on Friday night to the Badlands Sabres, based out of Rapid City, South Dakota. A pair of forwards who call South Dakota home were the standouts for the Sabres. Kael Delzer scored both third period goals and had an assist in the second period while teammate Zach Vockler scored the lone goal in the middle period and provided one assist in the first and third periods to lift the visitors from South Dakota to a two-goal victory. Maxim Currie picked up the win in the net by gathering 63 saves. Daniel Crutcher from the Americans accrued both goals and Garrett Weisenburger dished out two assists. Goaltender Zac Hattan prevented 40 of the 43 shots from going in the net (see game story).
Great Falls was hoping to snap their four-game losing skid while Badlands was looking for their third victory in five contests. Which squad would come out on top?
Behind a huge third period, the #4 Great Falls Americans downed the #6 Badlands Sabres, 7-3 as the host team outscored the road team 5-0 in the third period for their tenth win of the season as their two-game series concluded at the Great Falls Ice Plex on Saturday evening. A trio of players carried the team to victory including Hunter Maschke and Micah Serino, who each scored three points and goaltender Wyatt Olsonawski who redirected 48 of the 51 shots he faced by the Sabres offense.
The first period saw the Badlands take a slim 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Zach Vockler scored off the assist from Kael Delzer and Seth Stock after the first 6:41 went off the clock. Great Falls evened up the contest at 1-1 a few minutes later with Hunter Maschke lighting up the lamp for the ninth time this season with defenseman AJ Benit and forward Daniel Crutcher adding their tenth and fifth assists, respectively. The Sabres regained the advantage before the period expired. Carter Johnson put in his fourth goal with help from forwards Hunter Fischbach and Carter Merritt. The goals by Hunter Maschke (Great Falls) and Carter Johnson (Badlands) came while the opposing team was in the penalty box. Both teams went 1-for-2 on the power play after the first twenty minutes. The home team accounted for 14 of the 32 shots-on-goal.
The Sabres came out of the first break ready to go. Mason Martin and Zach Vockler found Kael Delzer for the easy score 40 seconds into the middle stanza. The 3-1 lead by Badlands lasted 5:49 when the Americans Jay Alford put the biscuit in the basket as his scoring drive came when Tyler Sunagel and Hunter Maschke delivered the puck to him to cut their deficit to 3-2. Maschke and Sunagel now each have 13 assists and a two-way tie for second on the team with assists made behind Jackson Henningsgard’s 16. Both teams skated out the final thirteen minutes with 29 total shots made before the second intermission.
Great Falls’ Joshua Serino needed just five minutes of the third frame to put in the equalizer for his second goal of the season. The Americans third score was assisted by Daniel Crutcher and Micah Serino. A flurry of goals came as the Americans gave the home fans plenty to cheer for as they scored four consecutive goals during the next five minutes to take the commanding 7-3 lead and the eventual victory. Jackson Henningsgard, AJ Benit, Micah Serino and Hunter Maschke all got in the scoring column for coach Greg Sears’ team. Daniel Crutcher assisted on two of those goals while Micah Serino and Garrett Weisenburger each assisted on one of the tallies. Micah Serino’s goal came on a penalty shot where he went one-on-one with Sabres netminder Maxim Currie for the fourth third period score for the Americans.
The visiting team outshot the host team 33-28 after two periods and closed out the game with an 18-15 shot difference in the third.
The key difference in Saturday’s game was the Americans were successful in taking advantage of their power play chances when they scored on three of their five opportunities including two in the final period. Great Falls spent 18 minutes in the penalties box while committing nine infractions. Badlands only converted one of their six power plays while being whistled for eight penalties.
The tenth win of the season was made possible by Hunter Maschke (2 goals/1 assist), Micah Serino (1 goal, 2 assists) and Daniel Crutcher’s four assists. Wyatt Olsonawski deserves credit as well as he allowed three goals before the second period ended but was perfect in the net in the third frame. Zach Vockler and Kael Delzer led the Sabres with a goal and an assist.
The Sabres proved to be tougher competition for Great Falls during their two-game series that concluded on Saturday night in their first meetings of the season. They will face each other four more times in the next two months including this upcoming week when the Americans travel to Rapid City, South Dakota for a two-game series and then in mid-January when Badlands makes a return trip to Great Falls.
Wyatt Olsonawski simply outperformed his counterpart, Maxim Currie in the net. Olsonawski, who picked up his second win in four appearances, racked up 48 saves in sixty minutes. After picking up the win last night, Maxim Currie played well in the first and second periods allowing one in each stanza but could not find a way to negate five scores by the Americans in the last period. Currie, who hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, fell for the sixth time in thirteen games (7-5-1-0) but managed to receive 36 saves.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will have a busy week as they will be on the road for three games in four days in two different cities. First up is a date with the #5 Butte Cobras on Wednesday, December 1st for a 7:00PM (MST) performance at the Butte Community Ice Center. After a travel day on Thursday (December 2nd), Great Falls will make their first-ever trip to Rapid City, South Dakota to face the Sabres in their home arena for two games. The action on Friday, December 3rd and Saturday, December 4th will begin at 7:05PM (MST) each night from the Roosevelt Park Ice Arena. HockeyTV will provide the coverage for all three nights of junior hockey action.
The Americans will appear at the Great Falls Ice Plex just one more time before the calendar turns to 2022. The Butte Cobras will be in town on Friday, December 31st for a New Year’s Eve showdown with the Americans as well as a New Year Day game against them. Both home games will start at 7:30PM (MST) with HockeyTV’s Megan Lewis on the call.