Photo: Courtesy of Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune Photographer
By Scott Mansch, Tribune Sports Writer
September 26, 2014
The Great Falls Americans scored a lot of goals last year.
Tonight the team will put pucks in the pockets of its appreciative fans in a season-opening promotion at the IcePlex.
Coach Jeff Heimel’s Americans, 1-0 in the NA3HL following an 8-2 triumph Saturday night in Havre, meet the Bozeman Ice Dogs tonight at 7:30. It’s the first of more than 20 games on home as the Americans, 36-9-3 a year ago in the regular season and ultimately 39-13-3, seek more success.
“We’re still riding the high horse from last year. What a great season it was,” said team opener Jim Keough. “We really appreciate our fans and tonight the first 600 will get a puck with our schedule on it. It’s a Howards Pizza promotion. And we also have a ‘we-win, you-win’ with Big Macs from McDonald’s.”
The victories, Keough hopes, will come with regularity. That’s pretty much been the case ever since Heimel came to town three years ago. The Minnesota native took over a franchise that finished 1-47 the season before and the improvement was immediate. The Americans were 16-30-2 two seasons ago and last winter advanced all the way to the championship series of the America West Hockey League.
Now the Junior A Tier III Americans are in a new league and hope to establish themselves as consistent winners.
“Jeff’s done a fantastic job of recruiting and it sounds like we’re going to have a very competitive team,” Keough said. “The carryover from last year’s championship series, when Helena beat us, is evident. We’re gearing up to start where last year left off, basically.”
In the Americans’ opening victory in Havre, which is where the Glacier Nationals are based after a move from Whitefish, Robert Kalata and Austin Krantz had two goals to back the solid goaltending of Lauren Massie.
“It was a packed house up there,” Keough said. “Havre’s a very good hockey community. The team’s young, but the fans were very excited and really into the game.”
That’s the way it usually is here at the IcePlex, too.
“The rivalries that we’ve established … Helena and Great Falls has always been a tremendous one and now Havre’s in the loop. It’s great,” Keough. “I think our fans will see a lot of very competitive games.”
The Americans will skate in Billings on Saturday before opening a four-game homestand Oct. 3. Typically the team will play on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the NA3HL’s regular season.
The eventual league champion will advance to the NA3HL Silver Cup Championship tournament March 19-22 in Geneva, Ill.
Story Courtesy: Great Falls Tribune (September 26, 2014)