Photo: Courtesy of Laura Richesin
By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., October 26, 2019 — The Missoula Junior Bruins (4-9-0-0) were one of two Frontier Division teams that the Great Falls Americans (10-2-1-0) haven’t faced this season after a month and a half into the 2019-20 North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) season until tonight. The Bozeman Ice Dogs (12-1-0-0), the top team in the Frontier Division, is the other team that the Americans haven’t challenged yet. They won’t face the Ice Dogs until January 10, 2020 in Bozeman, Montana.
Missoula stopped a five-game skid on October 25th when the edged the Helena Bighorns, 4-3 at the Glacier Ice Rink in Missoula, Montana. There other three victories came against Helena, Butte (Cobras) and the Yellowstone Quake. Great Falls, on the other hand, has reeled off three consecutive victories with a pair of wins over the Yellowstone Quake and one against Butte. They have declared at least one victory over their previous opponents including the Gillette (WY) Wild, Sheridan (WY) Hawks, Butte Cobras, Helena Bighorns and Yellowstone (WY) Quake.
During the 2018-19 season, the Americans claimed victory in seven of their eight meetings. Would the home team come out on top tonight?
The Great Falls Americans led by Dylan Olson’s two goals topped the Missoula Junior Bruins, 5-1 in the first meeting of the season for these two squads during Saturday afternoon’s North American 3 Hockey League’s (NA3HL) league contest at the Great Falls Ice Plex. The Bruins remain in fifth place in the Frontier Division while Great Falls moves up to the second spot thanks to a Saturday loss by the Gillette Wild.
Great Falls jumped out to a 3-0 lead as the first period concluded in the first meeting between these two Frontier Division squads. Dylan Olson, Jack Olson, and Hendrik Robel each responded with goals. Tommy Janes chipped in two assists while Kellen Harris, Blake Nerney, Brody Boyce and Jake Hayes provided one assist apiece. The Americans offense led the Bruins 20-4 in the shots-on-goal category.
The second period was scoreless until the final three minutes when each team collected a goal. Great Falls boosted their lead to 4-0 when Jack Olson and Nick Silance found Levi Mese for his eighth score of the season with 3:13 on the clock. Missoula ended the shutout 68 seconds later. Alberta native Mi-Kwan Tallman drove in for the score over Americans goaltender Viktor Wennberg. Tallman’s second goal of the season was assisted by Missouri natives Kyler Fullerton and Austin Franck. Seventeen shots by Great Falls gave the host team a 37 to 11 advantage after two periods.
Dylan Olson scored the lone goal in the final period of action. Brody Boyce and Blake Nerney collected their second assists on Olson’s second scoring opportunity of the day. The Bruins were held to under seven shots-on-goal during each of the three periods and finished with 18. Great Falls accrued 51 shots including 14 in the final period.
The contest last just over two hours and saw just nine infractions resulting in 26 minutes in the penalty box. Missoula and Great Falls had two power play chances and Great Falls capitalized on one opportunity when Jack Olson’s goal lit up the lamp in the first period.
Viktor Wennberg (17 saves) got the start and the win for the Americans on Saturday night. The Sweden native is now 7-1 and was perfect in the net in the first and third periods. In his first season with the Bruins, netminder Larkin Dolan (46 saves) dropped to 2-4 on the season for coach Cliff Cook’s team.
NOTE: The top-ranked Bozeman Ice Dogs fell for the first time in 13 games on Saturday night when the #7 Yellowstone (WY) Quake (3-11-0-0) tripped up the top team in the Frontier Division, 4-2 in Bozeman, Montana. Meanwhile, the Gillette Wild (10-3-0-0) were shutout by the Sheridan (WY) Hawks (10-4-0-0), 7-0 and that means with the Great Falls Americans victory, they now are in second place.
NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls embarks on a long homestand in November with eight of their ten games coming in front of their home fans at the Great Falls Ice Plex. The first two-game homestand features a rematch with the Gillette (WY) Wild next Friday (November 1st) and Saturday (November 2nd) with the games starting at 7:30PM each night. Their first two games of the 2019-20 season came against the Wild where each team came away with a victory. All games are streamed at HockeyTV with the “Voice of the Great Falls Americans” Jeremy Williamson behind the mike for the call.