By Kevin Scott
HELENA, Mont., March 14, 2015 — A night after the Great Falls Americans (38-10-3) defeated the Helena Bighorns (36-14-2) 5-2 in Game 1 of the best-of-three NA3HL Frontier Divisional Finals in Great Falls, they used their momentum to pick up their second consecutive win in as many days against Helena on Saturday night.
Great Falls scored five of their six goals in the third period to clinch the NA3HL’s Frontier Divisional Championship over the Bighorns 6-2 in front of a large crowd of 1,544 fans in attendance at the Helena Ice Arena. This was a rematch from last year’s Americans West Hockey League (AWHL) Championship Series in which the Bighorns swept the Americans 3-0 in the best-of-five tournament.
The win against last year’s Americans West Hockey League champions gave the Great Falls club the automatic berth in this upcoming week’s 2015 NA3HL Silver Cup Championship Tournament to be played on March 19-22 at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Illinois. The six team championship tournament features the five league champions plus one Silver Cup Wild Card team.
The game was tied after the first period as each team recorded a goal. Lucas Lomax got the visitors from Great Falls on the board with 2:45 remaining in the first period. Josh Larson and Cody Page dished out the assists. Helena responded before time expired as Jay Forbes found an open Brandt Miller for the score 54 seconds after the Americans score.
Both defenses never allowed any points to be scored in the middle period. Helena produced 25 shots-on-goal to Great Falls’ 18 after the first two periods of play.
The final period of action saw five goals made by the Great Falls offense. Five different players netted goals including Cody Page, Zack Mese, Josh Larson, Erik Gatson and Blake Miller. Josh Larson and Brendan Jester each picked up their second assists of the night and the Americans also received assists from Connor Barta, Erik Gatson, Lucas Stover, Lucas Lomax, Arseny Ivanov, Brendan Jester, Zack Mese and Reed Link. The sixth and final goal came from Blake Miller who scored on an empty net with 4:36 on the clock.
Cody Vanthournout added the only points of the third period for the Bighorns. The power play scoring play that took place at the 6:59 mark of the last stanza was assisted by Kendall Bolen-Porter and Brandt Miller, who added his second of the NA3HL contest.
Helena took eight more shots (38-30) than the Frontier Divisional champions attempted.
The championship game was filled with multiple penalties. The Americans incurred 12 minutes in penalty time including six minors while the Bighorns in their final game of the 2014-15 season recorded seven infractions for 22 penalty minutes.
Only one power play resulted in a successful scoring opportunity between the final two playoff squads. Helena’s Cody Vanthournout goal occurred with an extra attacker in the last period.
A night after Americans goaltender Jordan Moran made 39 saves, the Prior Lake, Minnesota native allowed just two goals on 38 shots that the Helena offense sent his way. Helena utilized both of their goaltenders (Adam Ranck and Grant Martens) with Ranck getting 22 of the 24 saves in the loss.
NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls will begin play at the 2015 NA3HL Silver Cup Hockey Tournament at the Fox Valley Ice Garden in Geneva, Illinois beginning Thursday, March 19th through Saturday, March 21st. The round robin format features two pools (Pool A and Pool B). The top two pool winners will face off in the championship on Sunday, March 22nd. For more information about NA3HL Championship Tournament, please click here.
|Period 1||Period 2||Period 3||Final|
First Period – 1, Great Falls, Lucas Lomax (Josh Larson, Cody Page), 17:15. 2, Helena, Brandt Miller (Jay Forbes), 18:09.
Second Period – NO SCORING
Third Period – 3, Great Falls, Cody Page (Josh Larson, Connor Barta), 2:17. 4, Great Falls, Zack Mese (Erik Gatson, Lucas Stover), 3:30. 5, Great Falls, Josh Larson (short-handed) (Lucas Lomax, Arseny Ivanov), 8:07. 6, Great Falls, Erik Gatson (Brendan Jester, Zack Mese), 10:33. 7, Helena, Cody Vanthournout (power play) (extra attacker) (Kendall Bolen-Porter, Brandt Miller), 13:01. 8, Great Falls, Blake Miller (empty net) (Brendan Jester, Reed Link), 15:24.
Shots on Goal – Great Falls 30, Helena 38.
Power-play Opportunities – Great Falls 0-for-5, Helena 1-for-6.
Attendance – 1,544
Additional Media Coverage: March 15, 2015: Great Falls Tribune: Americans sweep Bighorns to advance to NA3HL Silver Cup Tourney