By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., October 9, 2020 — Last weekend, the Great Falls Americans (3-0-0-0) made their home debut against the Butte Cobras (0-3-0-0) in a weekend series that was supposed to be played at the Butte Community Ice Center, but had to be moved to the Great Falls Ice Plex while they were fixing some arena ice issues.
Great Falls outscored Butte 14-3 as the host squad won 6-2 on Friday and 8-1 on Saturday night to open the season with a 2-0 record. During Friday’s performance, Alex Jackson, playing in his first game for Great Falls, scored three goals (hat trick), Nick Jensen provided 3 assists and netminder Trever Mellen added 23 saves. The following evening, eight different players (Cole Komarek, Henry Chavez, brothers Joshua Serino, Micah Serino, and Jeremiah Serino, Jake Hayes, and Braedon Monroe) recorded goals and goaltender Trever Mellen picked up his second win in as many games.
This week’s opponent and top rival, the Helena Bighorns (0-3-0-0) came to town for a single contest. Last weekend, they fell to the Gillette (WY) Wild (2-1-0-0) by identical scores of 3-1 on both Friday and Saturday nights in Helena. During the 2019-20 season, Great Falls went 9-0-1 against Helena.
Who would come out on top of their first game of their 2020-21 rivalry?
The Great Falls Americans trailed 1-0 early in the second period before their offense scored three straight tallies as they outlasted the Helena Bighorns, 3-2 during NA3HL junior hockey action at the Great Falls Ice Plex. Henry Chavez scored twice, Alex Jackson added two assists and winning goaltender Trever Mellen stopped 27 shots.
The Americans won their twelfth straight contest dating back to last season when they won their final nine games. Their last setback was a 4-3 shootout loss to the Sheridan Hawks, who were first year members of the NA3HL last season, on February 8, 2020.
Great Falls and Helena took lots of shots (24 to be exact) towards the goal during first period action but could not find a way to light up the lamp.
The Bighorns netted the first score of the contest 1:41 into the middle period to give the visiting squad the early advantage. North Dakota’s Wyatt Hanson and Wisconsin’s Harlan Wojtusik found returning forward Gavyn Galloway for the easy tip in the net over Americans goalie Trever Mellen. The Americans fought back and evened the game and prevented a deficit heading into the locker room before the second intermission. Alex Jackson recorded his third assist of the season as his pass to Henry Chavez was successful in the net over Helena goalie Anthony Adelman with 1:46 remaining in the second period. Chavez accrued his second goal of the season.
The host team took advantage of a Helena miscue and took their first lead of the night as Bryson Fletcher became the latest American to pick up a goal. Harley Nyhuis and Russ Rasmussen assisted on the first scoring play of the third stanza. The score would remain 2-1 for eleven minutes before Henry Chavez gathered his third goal of the season and second of the game. Chavez’s power play score gave the home team some breathing room as Alex Jackson and Cole Komarek were credited with one assist apiece. The Bighorns cut the deficit to 3-2 with a goal by Washington native Andrew Deskin with help from Isaac Ellingson and Luke Theisen with 3:44 left in regulation while the Americans were in the penalty box but that would be the closest they would get as Great Falls pulls out the win.
After outshooting Helena 15-9 during the opening period, Great Falls combined for 30 shots during the second and third periods to finish with 45. The Bighorns had 20 after the first period to end the night with 29.
The third game of the season for both squads saw just ten infractions that resulted in 20 minutes in the sin bin. Great Falls and Helena each converted one of their power play chances for a goal.
Trever Mellen is now 3-0 for the Coach Greg Sears’ team after his 27 saves on Friday night. Mellen, who calls North Branch, Minnesota home, has 64 saves through three games while allowing five goals. The Bighorns, Anthony Adleman had 42 of his 77 saves against Great Falls after appearing in two games that resulted in losses.
NEXT CONTEST: The Americans will put on their away jerseys and head to Bozeman, Montana for their first (official) road contest of the season against the Ice Dogs after having one of their road games against Butte at home. The puck is slated to drop at 7:30PM (MST) from Haynes Pavilion and will be broadcast live on HockeyTV.
Additional Media Coverage: October 9, 2020: 560AM-KMON: Weekly Radio Interview by KMON’s Randy Bogden with Great Falls Americans Head Coach Greg Sears every Friday morning. Click here to listen to the full interviews.
Additional Media Coverage: October 10, 2020: Great Falls Tribune: Chavez scores twice as Americans stay unbeaten