Photo: Courtesy of Great Falls Americans Hockey
By Kevin Scott
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BUTTE, Mont., December 12, 2019 — Four weeks ago was the last time #2 Great Falls Americans (21-2-3) and the last-place Butte Cobras (4-23-0) battled it out on the ice. The offense for both squads was slow for the opening puck drop. Great Falls scored once in the first period and was much improved after the first intermission. Butte came back to tie the contest (1-1) early in the middle period. The evened score lasted 12 seconds later after the host Americans pulled ahead for good with each team trading goals for the rest of the stanza. Great Falls held a 3-2 advantage in the final period despite a total of 25 shots taken. The teams couldn’t find the back of the net successfully and the Americans edges the Cobras for the fourth straight win in the series. The Cobras, last in the Frontier Division, have never scored more than two goals in each matchup. The Americans have outscored the Cobras, 24-8, as Great Falls and Butte meet in the final game of head-to-head division play before the three-day NA3HL Showcase Tournament taking place in Blaine, Minnesota from Sunday through Tuesday before the holiday break.
Dylan Olson and Henry Chavez each scored two goals apiece as the Great Falls Americans erupted for a dominating 7-1 romp over the host Butte Cobras during Thursday night’s NA3HL hockey action from the Butte Community Ice Center. Netminder Viktor Wennberg swatted away 49 of the 50 shots created by the Cobras to guide the Americans to their 21st victory in 26 games.
An eight-minute stretch provided the visiting team from Great Falls with three successful scoring opportunities. Dylan Olson scored two goals and Blake Nerney accrued an additional goal while Jake Hayes, Logan Rachow, Ivan Royo, Bryson Fletcher, Brandon Peterson and Levi Mese set up the scoring drives for coach Greg Sears. As period neared completion, the Cobras got the biscuit in the basket to cut the deficit for the home team to 3-1. Ty Stovin, who also played for the Butte Cobras last season, recorded his 24th goal of the season as Kyler Garsjo and Alec Sorby earned the assists with 82 seconds left before the first intermission. Sorby was a teammate of Stovin’s during the 2018-19 campaign but played in 19 games for the NA3HL’s West Division’s, Breezy Point (MN) North Stars before coming back to Butte. Garsjo’s assist was his 27th. Each team was whistled for one minor penalty for roughing. A 12-shot difference (29-17) produced by the Americans closed the first period.
In a repeat performance from the first period, the second-ranked Americans had three goals from three different players in the 20-minute second period. Butte was held scoreless and coach Greg Sears’ squad held a five-goal advantage (6-1). Henry Chavez, Nick Silance and Brody Boyce all scored with assistance from six players including Blake Nerney, Braydon Rachow, Levi Mese, Ivan Royo, Bryson Fletcher, and Brandon Peterson, who recently rejoined the team. Butte did attempt seven more shots in the period (23-16) but Great Falls led 45-40 after two stanzas.
Henry Chavez rounded out the scoring for both squads in the final frame. Chavez, a forward from San Jose, California, scored his second goal of the night and fifth overall. The unassisted tally came with just under five minutes remaining in the contest. The power play goal was assisted by Jake Hayes and Nick Ramstad. Seven goals were scored on 65 shot attempts by the visitors. Butte managed to connect on one goal by taking 50 shots.
Two Americans scored twice including Dylan Olson and Henry Chavez while five players each racked up two assists each including Brandon Peterson, Bryson Fletcher, Levi Mese, Jake Hayes, and Ivan Royo. Butte’s Ty Stovin scored the lone goal for the Cobras.
Only seven total penalties between these two clubs with 17 minutes spent in the penalty box were assessed in the final Frontier Division contest before Christmas. The Americans scored on their one power play attempt. Butte didn’t have any power play opportunities in their 23rd loss of the season.
Viktor Wennberg cruised to his 14th win in 16 appearances as the top goaltender in the league played just two periods. Matt Maniglia saw action for the first time this season for the Americans. The Brooklyn, New York netminder did not record any saves in the third frame. The struggling Cobras utilized two goaltenders. Starter Danny Fielding (3-4-0) amassed 57 saves in 50 minutes for the Butte in the loss. Aiden Waal played the final ten minutes and allowed one goal.
NOTE: The Great Falls Americans and Butte Cobras was originally scheduled for Friday, December 13th when the 2019-20 schedule was released in July but was moved up a day to accommodate the travel time for the start of the 2019 NA3HL Showcase Tournament, which begins a 3-day run on Sunday, December 15th.
NEXT CONTEST: After 26 games, the Great Falls Americans enter the 2019 NA3HL Showcase Tournament in second place in the Frontier Division with 21 wins. The Sunday (December 15th) through Tuesday (December 17th) tournament has all 34 teams competing with all games officially counting in the regular season standings. Many NCAA and NAHL scouts will be watching the action each day at the National Sports Center (NSC) Super Rink. First up, the Americans will face the Minnesota-based Granite City Lumberjacks at 3:15PM (MST) in the afternoon on Sunday followed on Monday’s contest with the Alexandria (MN) Blizzard at 5:35PM (MST). Great Falls closes out the tournament with the Lewiston/Auburn (L/A) Nordiques from Maine at 10:45AM (MST) on Tuesday, December 17th. Fans can watch on the league’s streaming service at HockeyTV.