Photo: Courtesy of Laura Richesin
By Kevin Scott
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GILLETTE, Wyo., January 5, 2019 — During Friday night’s contest (January 4th), the Great Falls Americans (26-7-0-1) scored the first four goals before the Gillette Wild (14-13-2-1) responded with their only goal of the game as Great Falls downed Gillette, 4-1 behind the efforts of Cody Dearing (2 goals) and Payton McSharry (2 assists).
Great Falls has won seven out of their eight meetings this season leading into their final matchup of the regular season.
The Great Falls Americans earned the two-game sweep over the Gillette Wild by scoring three goals in the first and third periods to post a 6-1 victory over the Wyoming team on Saturday night at the Spirit Hall Ice Arena. Charging the way for Great Falls was Jens Juliussen (1 goal, 2 assists), Garrett Peters (2 goals) and Payton McSharry with one goal and an assist.
The Americans, who are one of the top teams in the NA3HL, score three unanswered goals to open the final regular season encounter between the two junior hockey clubs. Garrett Peters added his tenth goal of the season 67 seconds into the contest with assistance from Lindros Beard and Great Falls native Braxton Lorenz for the first score. Following the score by Peters was Dylan Olson, who collected his tenth goal with Great Falls off the stick of Levi Mese seven minutes later. Brody Boyce also assisted. The duo of Cody Dearing and Payton McSharry found an open Jens Juliussen for the 3-0 lead with 2:10 left in the opening stanza. Both squads attempted 17 shots, but none were successful for the Wild.
Only one scoring drive was made when Gage Thompson connected on his 22nd goal on an unassisted play midway through the middle period to cut the Wyoming club’s deficit to 3-1. The middle period was filled with many penalties including two ejections for fighting. Great Falls and Gillette combined for 35 shots but only one lit up the lamp.
The Americans secured two early goals in the final twenty minutes to increase the lead by the visiting team (5-1). Alaska native Garrett Peters netted his second goal of the night set up by Ben Rinckey and Jack Olson with 16:37 on the clock. Hendrik Robel, one of four international players on the Americans roster, supplied the fifth score three minutes later for coach Greg Sears’ squad. Cody Dearing and Jens Juliussen provided the assists while Gillette was in the penalty box. The Americans chipped in one more before the contest concluded with Jens Juliussen obtaining his 49th assist of the season on Payton McSharry’s 34th goal. This was the second power play opportunity that Great Falls able to take advantage of.
The Americans had a game-high of 18 shots in the second and after three periods they recorded 48. The Wild took 34 of their 37 shots before the third period.
The visiting team went 2-for-5 on power play chances while the host team did not score on their four tries. A total of 94 minutes of penalties and 22 penalties were assessed by both Frontier Division teams.
Viktor Wennberg, recently named as an Honorable Mention nominee for the NA3HL’s Goaltender of the Month for December, prevented 36 of the 37 shots from getting by him picked up 12th win in 14 games for the Americans. Aaron LaChance fell to 5-5-0-1-1 as goaltender for the Wild. The Canadian allowed three goals in the first and third frames.
NEXT CONTEST: Next weekend (January 11-12th), Great Falls will play a home-and-away series against the Butte Cobras. The Americans return to the friendly confines of the Great Falls Ice Plex for Friday’s contest and then Saturday they make the trip to Butte. Both games are set to start at 7:30PM.
Additional Media Coverage: January 7, 2019: Great Falls Tribune: Americans sweep series with Gillette, still tied for first in Frontier