By Kevin Scott
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BILLINGS, Mont., January 27, 2017 — The Great Falls Americans (28-3-2-3) have only played against the Billings Bulls (4-31-0-1) twice this season.
The result was two wins for Great Falls.
The Americans, second in the NA3HL’s Frontier Division behind the Yellowstone Quake, out-scored the visiting Bulls 21-3 (ranked 7th in the Frontier) in two home games in September and November 2016. The Americans looked unstoppable in a 14-1 blowout win in their November 25th contest.
Since those two meetings, the Billings Bulls traded away two of their top leaders. Ludvig Omdal played 22 games for coach Mike Richardson and scored 15 goals and dished out 16 assists while Daniel Johansson had 13 goals and 14 assists. They both were traded to the NA3HL’s Binghamton Jr. Senators in December. Forward Sidney Lange, who calls Sidney, Montana home, is the current team leader in goals scored (seven goals) and is second in assists to Gage Thompson, who has 20.
Tanner Congdon and Danny O’Donnell continue to pace the Americans by playing in all 36 games this season. Congdon, who leads the team with 30 goals, is 17th in the league while teammate O’Donnell has accounted for 38 assists. Nick Nast (14-2-0-1) and Kyler Ayers (11-0-1-0) have combined to make 31 appearances in the net.
Great Falls was trying to get their third straight win against the junior hockey team from Billings on Friday evening.
Goaltender Kyler Ayers stopped all 25 shots and forward Brendan Jester scored a hat trick to lead the visiting Great Falls Americans to a lopsided 11-0 win over the Billings Bulls during Friday night’s NA3HL hockey action at the Centennial Ice Arena in Billings. Ayers recorded his seventh shutout win.
Forward Brendan Jester scored two goals in the first 4:43 of the first period to give the visiting team from Great Falls a two-goal lead. Jester scored his first goal 16 seconds into the contest with assistance from Tegan Harrington and Adam Vandenbos. Defenseman Jesse Johnson set up his 20th assist when he found Jester four minutes later via a short-handed scoring opportunity. The Americans took four more shots (14-10) than Billings during a four-penalty first period.
The following period saw Great Falls out score the Billings NA3HL franchise 4-0. Four different Americans players recorded goals including Tanner Congdon (30th goal), Tegan Harrington (21st goal), Michael Fary (5th goal), and Jesse Johnson finished out the period with his eighth goal. Team leader Danny O’Donnell added his 36th assist from a feed to Congdon on the power play early in the middle stanza. After Harrington’s short-handed score off the stick of Brendan Jester, Malachi Bushey and Sandis Mezharaups assisted on Fary’s goal at the 11:56 mark. When the period was over, the Americans held a 28-16 shots-on-goal advantage.
The Americans offensive attack would not let up as Latvia native Sandis Mezharaups sailed the puck through Billings goaltender Ethan Wiese for the seventh goal during the final period of play. The Americans took a commanding 8-0 lead at the midway point when Danny O’Donnell assisted for the second time tonight when he found Ricards Bernhards for the score. Also tallying an assist was Tanner Congdon. Payton McSharry accumulated his 20th goal of the season and Brendan Jester scored his third goal for a hat trick during a 44 second third period scoring spree. Tegan Harrington, Adam Vandenbos, Tanner Congdon and Quinn Stuebner provided the assists. Michael Fary capped off the scoring for Great Falls with his second goal with 72 seconds remaining. Sandis Mezharaups picked up his second assist.
Great Falls documented the only successful power play scoring drive when Tanner Congdon scored early in the second. The Bulls failed to convert on any of their five power play chances.
The visiting team concluded the night with six minor penalties for 12 minutes. Two of the Bulls’ five penalties came from unsportsmanlike conduct calls that accounted for 20 of the 26 minutes of penalty time.
A strong offensive effort by Great Falls in the final period helped them double the shots taken against the Bulls (52-25).
Kyler Ayers, the 6’1” net-minder from Boise, Idaho, swatted away all 25 shots during the contest. Ethan Wiese, who finished with 41 saves, suffered his ninth straight loss in 13 appearances.
NEXT CONTEST: The Americans will challenge the Bozeman Ice Dogs for their last game in January on Saturday, January 28th at Bozeman’s Haynes Pavilion starting at 7:30PM.