By Kevin Scott
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RAPID CITY, SD., December 3, 2022 — The #5 Great Falls Americans (10-13-0-0) and the #7 Badlands (SD) Sabres (6-14-2-2) have played each other three times with Great Falls having a 2-1 series advantage before Saturday’s fourth game against the Sabres in Rapid City, South Dakota.
The Americans were hoping to rebound after a disappointing 2-0 shutout win by Badlands. Sabres standout Dawson Wirth and AJ Petrotto provided the two goals that were necessary for their first win this season against Great Falls (game story).
After tonight’s game, Great Falls and Badlands will meet up again in South Dakota during the weekend of February 3rd and 4th for their final regular season head-to-head matchup.
Great Falls Americans forwards Dawson Bunch and Garrett Weisenburger combined to score four of the six Americans goals to send the fifth-ranked visiting Montana junior hockey squad to a 6-4 win over the #7 Badlands (SD) Sabres to end their weekend series on Saturday evening in Rapid City, South Dakota. Zach Vockler scored half of the Sabres goals in the loss.
A loss by Great Falls and a win by Badlands could have sent both teams trading places in the Frontier Division standings.
The Americans did a better job offensively than last night (2-0 loss to the Sabres). Great Falls held a 2-1 lead after the first twenty minutes thanks to goals scored by Dawson Bunch and Russ Rasmussen. Noah Osiowy and Silas Hughes assisted on the Dawson Bunch’s first tally seven minutes into the opening period. Badlands came back to even the score (1-1) with 4:26 left when Hunter Walla found Zach Vockler for the first of his two scores of the night. The Sabres first goal came with the Americans in the penalty box. Two minutes later, Russ Rasmussen, from Great Falls, managed to gather his fifth goal on an unassisted play for coach Greg Sears’ team.
The locker room talk after the first period fired up both team as they accrued a total of six goals with each team racking up three. The Americans outscored the Sabres 2-1 during the first six minutes of the middle period. Dawson Bunch created his second goal of the night and fifth overall. After Badlands forward Zach Vockler added the Sabres second scoring drive of the night, Garrett Weisenburger put in the first of his two goals to increase the lead for Great Falls to 4-2. The final six minutes produced three goals with the host team scoring the final two (goals). Aidan McCormick and Sam Duehlmeier aided in Weisenburger’s second score with six minutes remaining before the second intermission. AJ Petrotto and Carter Johnson pulled South Dakota to within one goal (5-4) before the period expired. Petrotto’s goal went unassisted while Logan Powers set up Johnson’s lamplighter (with one second left) for the second successful power play of the night. Great Falls combined for 30 shots over the first forty minutes while Badlands attempted 26.
While most of the scoring taking place in the second frame, Great Falls’ Silas Hughes slapshot occurred with 12 minutes remaining was the lone score for either team as the Americans held off a rallying Sabres squad trying for the weekend sweep but came up short.
Great Falls never trailed in the contest, and they also recorded more shots-on-goal in each of the three periods. The Americans had a team-high of 16 of their 38 shots in the second stanza. Badlands finished with 33.
There were not many penalties called in Saturday’s contest. Great Falls committed two minor penalties while Badlands had three (minors). Badlands scored half of their goals (two) while they were on the power play. Great Falls missed their three power play chances.
Josh Koziol, who suffered his tenth loss of the season the previous night, saw his record improve to 7-10-0-0 by acquiring 26 saves. Sabres used both of their goaltenders (Zach Broxterman and Brady Devries) and the combined for 32 saves with Broxterman taking the loss after winning on Friday night.
NOTE: Great Falls jumped ahead of the Yellowstone (WY) Quake to the fifth spot in the NA3HL Frontier Division standings with the win over the Badlands Sabres on Saturday. Yellowstone, who was in fifth place prior to tonight’s game, fell to sixth place with their 4-3 loss to the #4 Butte Cobras (see below).
FRONTIER DIVISION UPDATE: The top two teams in the Frontier Division collided on the ice again in Helena, Montana in front of 1,457 fans at the Helena Ice Arena. On Friday night, the #2 Helena Bighorns (17-5-1-1) wound up with a 3-1 win over the #2 Gillette (WY) Wild (20-2-0-2). Gillette’s Zach Slinger and Helena’s Lyndon Orr each scored for their respective teams before the final period. Gillette’s Isaac Young ensured that the game would not go into an overtime as he lit up the lamp over Helena netminder Marek Andres with 4:27 left to break the tie. Both teams skated out the remaining time as Gillette and Helena split their weekend series (box score). The rematch between these two clubs will be back in Helena on the weekend of January 6-7.
The #8 Bozeman Ice Dogs (7-16-0-1) used a 4-0 lead after the first period to hold on for a 7-4 win over the third-ranked Sheridan (WY) Hawks (14-9-1-0) on Saturday in Bozeman, Montana. On Friday, Sheridan lit up the lamp for ten goals enroute to a 10-2 win over the Ice Dogs. Bodie Shephardson scored a hat trick (three goals) and teammates Sam Ingram and Spencer Wilkinson each scored two in the victory. Ryan McKenna led the Hawks with two goals and one assist (box score).
The fourth-ranked Butte Cobras (12-10-1-0) waited until the final 76 seconds of the game to break the 3-3 tie on a goal by Cade Wessman to prevent an extra period of play against the #5 Yellowstone (WY) Quake (8-13-2-1). Butte also won 4-2 on Friday against Wyoming to earn the weekend sweep. In addition to Wessman’s scoring, the Cobras also received goals from Micah Williamson, Jonathan O’Brien, and former Great Falls Americans Patrick Crooks. Cole Fenske, Benjamin Kluza and Tegan Scheurer each put the biscuit in the net for the Quake (box score).
NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls will play next weekend (December 9-10) in Sheridan, Wyoming when they face the #3 Sheridan Hawks for their fifth meeting of the season. Great Falls is 0-4 against Sheridan this season. Fans, who can’t make it to Wyoming, can tune into HockeyTV for all the action live from Whitney Rink in the M&M’s Center starting at 7:30PM (MST).