By Kevin Scott
|Box Score||Game Sheet||League Scoreboard||Americans Team Statistics|
GREAT FALLS, Mont., February 25, 2017 — The Bozeman Ice Dogs (23-20-2-0) and the Great Falls Americans (37-3-2-3) have only met on the ice on three different occasions this season.
With the season winding down, these two junior hockey franchises are both playoff bound and ready to face each other one more time in the regular season. Great Falls owns a 3-0-0-1 record with the last game won by Great Falls (5-4) in Billings on January 28th.
Bozeman had a two-game winning streak going with a pair of victories over the Helena Bighorns while Great Falls has won 19 straight including a pair of shootout victories against the top-ranked Yellowstone Quake, who currently lead the seven-team Frontier Division. The Americans last loss came in the middle of December against the Peoria (IL) Mustangs at the 2016 NA3HL Showcase tournament in Minnesota. The 3-2 loss came in a shootout on the final day of the tournament.
The Great Falls Americans closed out their home portion of the regular season on Saturday evening by defeating the Bozeman Ice Dogs 5-1 for their 19th consecutive victory during Bridger Steel and Billet Family Appreciation Night at the Great Falls Ice Plex. The 1,050 spectators in attendance watched as the billet families and the players were introduced during a special ceremony after the first period.
Great Falls started off strong and finished the first period with a three-goal advantage over the Ice Dogs. Alaska native Payton McSharry scored the first two goals during a 92 second scoring span. Tanner Congdon added the assist on the first scoring drive and Brendan Jester had his 36th assist on the second goal. Ricards Bernhards put in his eighth goal of season that sailed through Bozeman goaltender Luke Olson with 27 seconds remaining in the stanza. Great Falls netminder Nick Nast swatted away all nine shots that came his way.
The Ice Dogs responded and cut their deficit to 3-1 eight minutes into the second period. Austin Charnholm, who resides in Belgrade, Montana, received a pass from defenseman Daniel Liberko for Bozeman’s first score of the contest. The Americans increased their lead to 5-1 before the second intermission. Sandis Mezharaups scored on a power play opportunity with assistance from Tanner Congdon and Danny O’Donnell with 1:33 on the clock. Ricards Bernhards, a member of last year’s Frontier Division championship team, racked up the fifth team goal with a few seconds left. Matt Janke and Jens Juliussen accumulated the assists. Great Falls attempted 31 shots after the first forty minutes and limited the visiting team to 20.
The teams skated out the final period with no goals occurring. Both teams combined for 16 shots during the final twenty minutes but could not find a way to score.
Payton McSharry and Ricards Bernhards tailed two goals apiece and Tanner Congdon assisted on two scoring drives for the Americans. Bozeman’s only score came during the middle period when Austin Charnholm scored off the stick of Daniel Liberko.
A total of 12 infractions were committed by both squads. The minor penalties resulted in 24 minutes in the penalty box. Great Falls took advantage of two power play opportunities that went for scores. The Ice Dogs could not convert any of their five power play chances.
Nick Nast played well in his final regular season home game by registering 23 saves and allowing just one goal by Bozeman. Luke Olson of Bozeman played the entire contest in the net ended the night with 38 saves in the loss.
NEXT CONTEST: Goaltender Nick Nast, defenseman Danny O’Donnell and forward Payton McSharry will be in Michigan on Monday and Tuesday (Feb. 27-28th) to participate in the 2017 Top Prospects Tournament. Great Falls closes out their regular season on the road against the top-ranked Yellowstone Quake on Friday and Saturday (March 3-4th) in Cody, Wyoming. The first playoff game in Great Falls will take place on Friday, March 17th against a team to be announced.