Americans rally to defeat the Bruins in overtime, 5-4

By Kevin Scott

Box Score Game Sheet League Scoreboard Americans Team Statistics

MISSOULA, Mont., January 5, 2017 — The Great Falls Americans (21-3-2-3) have usually scored more goals than the Missoula Jr. Bruins (17-11-1-1) during their previous five meetings. The one exception was when they fell to the Missoula NA3HL franchise 7-3 in the middle of October. Great Falls has out-scored Missoula 19-11 including two shutout victories.

During their New Year’s Eve contest on home ice, the second-place Americans took a 3-0 lead after two periods before receiving a scare when they allowed the fourth-place Bruins to rack up two goals during the first three-minutes of the third period. The host team re-energized when Normunds Vibans and Jesse Johnson added goals in the final minutes to ensure an Americans victory.

The Great Falls Ice Plex saw one of their biggest crowds of the season on Saturday evening when the 858 fans in attendance witnessed the Americans hang on for their twentieth victory of the season. The 858 fans isn’t unusual for Great Falls as they are currently fourth in attendance in the 48-team North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) and first in the Frontier Division averaging 695 fans in 17 home appearances.

The Great Falls Americans waited until the final eight seconds of the third period to tie their contest at 4-4 against the Missoula Jr. Bruins to force an extra period. Adam Vandenbos, who earlier this week, was named as an Honorable Mention selection for the Frontier Division’s Star of the Week for his play last week, scored the game-tying goal in the final stanza. In overtime, Danny O’Donnell scored the game-winning goal 2:32 into the five-minute overtime period to help the Americans escaped with a 5-4 victory over the host team during Thursday’s action at the Glacier Ice Rink in Missoula, Montana.

Each team skated to a 1-1 tie during the first twenty minutes of action. Wisconsin native Matt Janke put the first points on the scoreboard for either team when teammates Brendan Jester and Danny O’Donnell found him open for the power play score 6:14 into the game. Rhys Cottle evened up the score for the Bruins with four minutes remaining in the period. Trym Isaksen from Norway and Missoula’s Zack Jaffe were each credited with an assist. Missoula took one more shot than the visiting Americans (13-12) had before the first intermission.

Tanner Congdon helped the second-ranked Americans regain the lead 95 seconds into the middle period when his shot sailed through Bruins net-minder Tanner Loucks. Brendan Jester picked up his second assist of the night while defenseman Normunds Vibans achieved his seventh assist of the season. The lead for Great Falls would be short-lived as Missoula tallied two more goals before end of the period to give them a 3-2 advantage. Zachary Colgrove and Joseph Porco lit up the lamp for Missoula. Austin Azzinnaro, Josh Chamberlain, Jeremy Blondin, and Justin Barnes all came away with one assist apiece.

The Bruins, playing in their first year as a member of the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL), added another goal early in the third to increase their lead by two goals. Christian Ward registered his 11th goal with assistance from Joseph Porco and Justin Barnes on the Bruins’ second successful power play score of the night. After picking up two assists earlier in the game, Brendan Jester pulled the Americans to within one goal (4-3) midway through the final period of regulation. Jesse Johnson, last week’s Frontier Division Star of the Week, recorded his 17th assist while assist leader Danny O’Donnell racked up his 28th when the Bruins were down a man. Jeff Heimel’s squad would deny the Missoula NA3HL franchise from securing their 18th win in 30 tries when O’Donnell and former Missoula Bruin Payton McSharry got the puck to Adam Vandenbos for the game-tying points with eight seconds remaining.

During the extra period, Danny O’Donnell provided the game-winning score off the stick of Payton McSharry 2:32 into the five-minute overtime.

Great Falls took 33 of their 46 shots during the first two periods of action. After attempting 13 shots each during the first forty minutes, the Bruins finished with 38.

The visiting team accumulated 12 infractions resulting in 45 minutes in the penalty box. The Bruins accrued 11 penalties.

Danny O’Donnell led the Americans by scoring one goal and dishing out three assists. Brendan Jester also had one goal to go along with two assists in the win. Joseph Porco led the way for Missoula with one goal and one assist.

Nick Nast, who played the entire 62 minutes, got the win by stopping 34 of the 38 shots for the Americans. Tanner Loucks ended his night with 41 saves in the loss.

NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls and Missoula return to action on Friday, January 6th when they teams will face off in Great Falls for a showdown at the Great Falls Ice Plex. The Americans will also tangle with the Glacier Nationals at home the following night (Saturday, January 7th). Both contests are set to begin at 7:30PM (MST)