By Kevin Scott
|Box Score||Game Sheet||League Scoreboard||Americans Team Statistics|
GREAT FALLS, Mont., October 30, 2015 — The North American 3 Hockey League’s 2015-16 season is entering Week 7 this week and through six weeks the Great Falls Americans have won ten games and lost twice while this week’s opponent, the Helena Bighorns are 6-5.
During the 2014-15 season, each team won four head-to-head matchups with the Americans winning the first four early in the season. Both teams also met up in the 2015 Frontier Divisional Finals last March where Great Falls won both games in the best-of-three championship series and outscored their opponent 11-4.
Great Falls and Helena squared off for the first time this season with a home and away series on Friday and Saturday. It’s was battle between the top team (Great Falls) and third place Helena.
The Great Falls Americans took a 2-0 lead after the first period but had to fight off an attack and comeback bid by the Helena Bighorns offense to secure a 3-2 victory in the final minute. The go-ahead goal came from Americans standout Ricards Bernhards, which came with 50 seconds remaining in the contest. Over 800 fans cheered on the host team on Friday night as they ran their winning streak to five games during Blue Cross Blue Shield and McDonald’s ‘We Win, You Win” promotional night at the Great Falls Ice Plex. Fans walked away with FREE McDonald’s Big Mac coupons.
Mitchell Ramstad netted his second and third goals of the season with help from teammates Tanner Congdon and Tegan Harrington on the Americans first score. The first goal came at the 13:26 mark of the opening period. Ramstad’s second points came nearly ten minutes later as Great Falls native Connor Barta had an assist while Alaska native Tanner Congdon chipped in his second of the evening. Before the first intermission, Great Falls had a two-goal advantage.
The Americans, under the direction of head coach Jeff Heimel, took 11 first period shots against the defense of the Helena Bighorns.
During the second period, the Helena Bighorns pulled to within one goal (2-1) early with a goal by Gavin Lubin. Matt Blassic and Michael Ballard were each credited with an assist. Helena then tied the NA3HL contest (2-2) with 95 seconds remaining in the middle period. Ryan Daugherty provided the game-tying goal for the Helena NA3HL franchise. John Greer and Bryan Knesel came away with the assists on the short-handed goal. During the second twenty minute period, the Bighorns out-shot the Americans 12-9 as both teams ended up with 20 shots apiece through the second stanza.
Just when it looked like the game might go into overtime, the Great Falls Americans scored the only goal that they needed in the last twenty minutes of action to pick up the win. The game-winning goal came by the way of Ricards Bernhards, the team’s second leading scorer, with 50 seconds left in regulation. Josh Larson and Adam Apangalook set up the play in the end. After both teams had 20 shots-on-goal before the second intermission, Great Falls held a 16-10 advantage during the final period.
No goals were scored via the combined ten power play attempts.
The home team won their tenth game of the season finishing with four minor penalties (for eight minutes) while the visitors from Helena incurred six infractions (for twelve minutes).
Mitchell Ramstad, a forward from Redwing, Minnesota, led the way for the Americans with two first-periods goals and Tanner Congdon had both assists on the Ramstad points. Ricards Bernhards tallied the only goal for either team in the final stanza.
Goaltender Jake Stephan had 28 saves and allowed just two second period goals to get by him. The Wisconsin native is now 4-1 on the season and currently has 143 saves. Veteran Grant Martens led the Bighorns with 33 saves on 36 attempts in the loss.
NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls makes the trip to Helena, Montana on Halloween night (Sat. Oct. 31st) for a 7:00PM showdown against the Bighorns at the Helena Ice Arena.
Additional Media Coverage: October 30, 2015: Great Falls Tribune: Americans top Bighorns