Photo: Courtesy of Laura Richesin
By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., November 29, 2019 — The Great Falls Americans (17-2-3) have picked up two victories as they head into their third meeting with the Missoula Junior Bruins (7-15-0) on Friday night for the third time in Great Falls.
The Americans won by identical scores of 5-1 on October 26th and two weeks ago on November 15th. The host team never trailed in the first matchup as they led 4-0 before Missoula scored in the middle period. Forward Dylan Olson score two goals and Viktor Wennberg stopped 17 of 18 shots in the goal during the Saturday afternoon contest.
The November 15th encounter saw Missoula take a brief lead before Great Falls reeled off five straight goals in the first and second stanzas. Due to unsafe ice conditions after the second intermission, NA3HL officials called off the third period after a lengthy delay. Later, Missoula conceded the win to give the Americans their 15th win of the 2019-20 season.
Since then, Great Falls played three contests (1-0-2-0) with a win over last-place Butte, 3-2 on November 16th before two tough overtime setbacks to the Sheridan (WY) Hawks, who got past the Americans in the extra period both nights last weekend. The two losses put Great Falls in a tie (35 points) with Sheridan (17-5-1-0) for second place in the Frontier Division before tonight’s meeting. Meanwhile, the Bruins went 1-2 with a single victory over the Butte Cobras and a pair of losses to the top team in the Frontier Division, the Bozeman Ice Dogs (21-1-0-0).
Dylan Olson, Kellen Harris and Viktor Wennberg were key contributors as the Great Falls Americans scored five straight goals over the Missoula Junior Bruins on a cold and snowy night in Great Falls, Montana to capture their 17th victory and fifth overall shutout of the season. Despite the freezing temperatures outside, 695 fans made their way into the Great Falls Ice Plex to watch the home team notch another victory.
For the moment, the Americans have sole possession of second place in the Frontier Division because the third-seeded Sheridan (WY) Hawks fell to the top-ranked Bozeman Ice Dogs, 5-0 on Friday evening.
Dylan Olson scored two of the three goals for the Americans in the first twenty minutes of action as Great Falls took a three-goal lead into the first break. Brody Boyce lit up the scoreboard 48 seconds into the game with Blake Nerney collecting his ninth assist and Harley Nyhuis assisted for the sixth time this season. In a four-minute span, Dylan Olson accrued his ninth and tenth goals halfway through the stanza. Kellen Harris, who received Honorable Mention in the Frontier Division’s Stars of the Week for his play last week against the Sheridan (WY) Hawks, assisted on both scoring drives while leading assist maker, Jack Olson accumulated his 27th and Tommy Janes picked up his fifth. There was only one minor penalty called by the Americans before time ran out. Coach Greg Sears’ squad finished with 28 shots while holding Missoula to 12.
The home team produced a pair of goal to extend their lead to 5-0 in the middle stanza. Logan Rachow and Jack Olson each tallied a goal with four players gathering assists including Kellen Harris (third assist of the contest), Harley Nyhuis (second assist) and Bryson Fletcher and Dylan Olson with their first of the evening. Great Falls’ offense handled the puck for the majority of the second twenty-minute stanza as they out-shot the Bruins, 22-5.
Despite taking 20 total shots between these two clubs, neither team was able to rack up any goals after the second intermission.
Great Falls and Missoula combined for six power play opportunities with Great Falls’ Logan Rachow capitalizing for the fourth goal in the second period while the Bruins were in the penalty box. In a junior hockey contest that lasted just over two hours, 11 penalties were handed out accounting for 30 minutes of penalty time.
Dylan Olson, Kellen Harris and Viktor Wennberg were the “Stars of the Game” for the home team. Olson contributed three points (2 goals, 1 assist), Harris assisted on three of the five total goals and Viktor Wennberg was perfect in the net by swatting away all 20 shots created by the Bruins offense.
Sweden native Viktor Wennberg ended his night with his 12th victory (12-1-0-1) and 350th save of the 2019-20 campaign. He is the third best netminder in the NA3HL with a Goals-Against-Average (GAA) of 1.36 trailing only Texas Brahmas netminder Kayden Hargraves (1.13 GAA) and Rochester (MN) Grizzlies goal stopper Mathias Backstrom. Missoula’s Larkin Dolan, calling Carbondale, Colorado home, had his record fall to 3-7-0-0 and so far, has amassed 414 saves in ten appearances. In the first two periods, he allowed five goals by Great Falls to get by him and recorded 62 saves in sixty minutes.
NOTE: The Great Falls Americans welcomed Rick and Jo Rachow, parents of forward Braydon Rachow and defenseman Logan Rachow to the Great Falls Ice Plex to watch their sons play this weekend. The couple came from Eagle River, Alaska.
NEXT CONTEST: The fourth meeting against the Missoula Junior Bruins will happen on Saturday, November 30th when the two teams collide on the ice for the final time in Great Falls in the regular season. Both teams will meet twice more at the end of February at the Glacier Ice Rink in Missoula before the season concludes. HockeyTV will bring you all the action for Saturday’s (November 30th) contest at 7:30PM.
Additional Media Coverage: November 29, 2019: ABC/FOX Montana (KFBB): Americans route Jr. Bruins 5-0 in Game 1