By Kevin Scott
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BUTTE, Mont., February 13, 2021 — The #3 Great Falls Americans (19-11-1-0, 39 pts.) have won all five matchups against the #8 Butte Cobras (6-22-3-1, 16 pts.) this season.
A few things have changed with the Americans and Cobras since their January 23rd meeting in Butte where Great Falls needed a shootout to get by Butte (3-2).
The Americans had a bye week last week due to a change in their previously announced schedule. The bye helped propel the Missoula Junior Bruins (19-10-2-0, 40 pts.) to jump ahead to the second spot and dropped Great Falls to the third seed in the Frontier Division standings with a pair of wins over the Bozeman Ice Dogs and Butte Cobras. Both Great Falls and Butte have overhauled their rosters since the third week of January. Great Falls has six new faces and saw eight players released since December 31st.
The Americans newest member, Jackson Henningsgard came over from a trade with the NA3HL’s Central Division’s, St. Louis Jr. Blues this past week. After the last meeting, Great Falls is 1-1-0-0 by earning a split with Wyoming’s Yellowstone Quake to close out January. Butte is 2-0-1 by downing the Quake twice and dropping a single loss to Missoula on Friday night in an extra frame, 4-3. Since December 31st, Butte has added three players and released 19.
The Great Falls Americans earned their ninth road victory (19th win overall) by defeating the Butte Cobras 4-1 during Saturday’s junior hockey contest at the Butte Community Ice Center. Hunter Maschke scored once and dished out one assist while goaltender Trever Mellen acquired 43 saves.
Aside from one minor penalty called on Great Falls for slashing, the first period was uneventful for both squads. There was a short delay with 3:08 left in the stanza as the lights went out at the Butte Community Ice Center. Once power was restored, Great Falls’ Hunter Maschke netted his seventh goal of the season with 26 seconds remaining thanks to a pass from teammates Henry Chavez and Kellen Harris. The visiting team went into the locker room with the early 14-9 shots-on-goal advantage.
Nick Silance, a returning forward from the 2019-20 season, scored his second goal with assistance from AJ Benit five minutes into the middle period as the third-place team in the NA3HL’s Frontier Division increased their lead (2-0). Jackson Henningsgard added his first assist for Great Falls and sixth overall including five as a member of the St. Louis Jr. Blues. The Americans put up 14 more shots in the middle period while holding Butte to 9.
Butte answered in the third period to cut the deficit to 2-1 midway through the final frame. Washington native Jonah Gilbert and Russia’s Pavel Gerasimenko secured the assists on Luke Schlensner’s third tally of the season. As the third period clock wound down, Great Falls registered two goals in 60 seconds. Jake Hayes collected his 16th goal and Connor Chesner chipped in his second to ensure another Americans win. Kobe Pane, Garret Weisenburger, and Hunter Maschke recorded the assists. Both third period scoring drive for Great Falls came on an empty net. After two periods, Great Falls held a ten-shot lead (28-18), but the Cobras outshot the visiting team, 26-9 in the final period of regulation to finish with 44.
The Americans were whistled for six minor penalties (12 minutes of penalty time) while the Cobras committed three minor and one major penalty (11 minutes in the sin bin). There were no successful goals on the power play tonight.
Great Falls’ Trever Mellen secured his 16 victory in 23 games by swatting away 43 of the 44 shots sent his way by Butte’s offense. Tommy Near of the Cobras record fell to 4-6-1-0 as the Michigan native made 33 saves.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will play two of their final three games at home next weekend. The rematch with the Butte Cobras occurs on Friday, February 19th. On Saturday, February 20th, the Bozeman Ice Dogs come to town with the action for both nights from the Great Falls Ice Plex starting at 7:30PM (MST) with streaming coverage provided by HockeyTV.
Additional Media Coverage: February 12, 2021: 560AM-KMON: Weekly Radio Interview by KMON’s Randy Bogden with Great Falls Americans Head Coach Greg Sears every Friday morning. Click here to listen to the full interviews.