By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., November 15, 2019 — The Great Falls Americans (15-2-1-0) have played six out of their seven opponents at this point of the 2019-20 season at least once except for the top-ranked Bozeman Ice Dogs, who will first encounter the Americans in the middle of January 2020.
Tonight’s opponent, the Missoula Junior Bruins, under the direction of head coach Cliff Cook, enter this week with a 6-12-0-0 record and sit in fifth place in the Frontier Division. The Americans and Bruins have met only once this season prior to tonight. Great Falls’ Dylan Olson scored two goals and goaltender Viktor Wennberg stopped 17 of 18 shots by the Missoula offense to earn a 5-1 triumph on the afternoon of October 26th. Alberta native Mi-Kwan Tallman, a first-year member of the Missoula junior hockey franchise, tallied the lone goal in the middle stanza.
Great Falls has eight consecutive victories since the end of October while Missoula is 0.500 (2-2 record) since their last meeting with the Americans. The Bruins picked up their fifth and sixth wins on home ice against the #6 Yellowstone Quake (6-12-1) two weeks ago and fell twice last weekend in Wyoming to the #3 Sheridan Hawks (14-4-1-0).
All active military, veterans, and their families received FREE ADMISSION to tonight’s contest as the Americans celebrated “Military Appreciation Night.” Malmstrom Air Force Base (Great Falls) Color Guard presented the colors tonight.
The #2 Great Falls Americans earned a 5-1 decision over the visiting #6 Missoula Junior Bruins on Friday night in Great Falls in a game that lasted just two periods due to poor ice conditions at the Great Falls Ice Plex. The game was suspended after a 40-minute delay as the unsafe ice floor forced NA3HL officials to postpone the contest. Later, the game was conceded by the Bruins as Great Falls collected their fifteenth victory of the season.
The first fourteen minutes of this NA3HL junior hockey game saw each team trade goals. Missoula took the early advantage 6:45 into the contest when Tyler Prince and Trevor Prince assisted on the power play scoring drive by Cayce Balk, the Michigan native, created his 13th goal against Americans goaltender Viktor Wennberg. Later, Logan Rachow slapshot found the back of the net. The first-year defenseman from Eagle River, Alaska netted his second goal of the season with 7:20 remaining. The Americans took their first lead with 2:04 on the clock when Bryson Fletcher collected his eighth goal as an American on the short-handed scoring drive that sailed by Missoula netminder Seth Daniel. Great Falls’ offense took control of the puck and made 23 of the 31 total shots acquired before the first intermission.
Two minutes is all that it took for the Americans to add their third goal. Levi Mese recorded his tenth goal with help from teammates Jack Olson and Brody Boyce, who received their 23rd and 16th assists, respectively. A few minutes later, Great Falls emerged with a 4-1 lead over the Bruins. Blake Nerney, who earlier this week practiced with the North American Hockey League’s (NAHL) Aberdeen (South Dakota) Wings, garnered the goal for the Americans second consecutive successful power play when Kellen Harris and Nick Ramstad found him open for the score. Before the second stanza concluded, Dylan Olson struck gold with his eighth goal. The returning forward from White Bear Lake, Minnesota short-handed score came midway through the middle period with an assist going to Tommy Janes to increase the lead for the home team to 5-1. The second period ended with Great Falls pumping out 28 shots and holding Missoula to 3.
The third and final period was delayed more than forty minutes due to some unsafe ice issues that surfaced at the Great Falls Ice Plex.
The delayed Frontier Division game was dominated by the Americans after the first goal was scored in the first period. Great Falls finished with 51 shots in two periods. Missoula ended their second game in Great Falls with 11.
The 1,425 spectators, one of the largest crowds ever at the Great Falls Ice Plex, witnessed ten combined minor penalties in the shortened two-period affair. Great Falls scored two of their five goals while the Bruins were in the penalty box. Butte’s lone goal scored by Cayce Balk was made while the Americans were down a man.
Viktor Wennberg, the top goaltender in the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) with a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 1.34, ran his record to 11-1 with ten saves for the winning side. Seth Daniel had his fifth loss for Missoula in his second season with the Bruins. The Columbus, Georgia native played all forty minutes and amassed 46 saves.
NOTES: Blake Nerney, a returning forward from St. Louis, Missouri, got to practice this past week with South Dakota based, Aberdeen Wings of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
Harley Nyhuis’ (Forward, 5’11”, 150 lbs., Rancho Mirage, CA) grandparents, Rose and Bill, made the long 9-hour trek (513 miles) to Great Falls, Montana from Stoney Plain, Alberta, Canada to watch their grandson play in both home games this weekend. This was their first time visiting Great Falls.
Also making a visit to Great Falls was Levi Mese’s (Forward, 6’0”, 175 lbs., Kenai, AK) mother (Laura) and his girlfriend (Drew) came down from Kenai, Alaska to watch Levi play this weekend. His grandparents, Tom and Pat Vincent from Arizona were also in attendance.
Forward Jack Olson’s parents, Dennis and Melissa from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, also made an appearance at the Great Falls Ice Plex to watch their son play.
Jeff Heimel, the former Great Falls Americans Head Coach and General Manager (2012-2018) and current University of Providence (Great Falls, MT) head men’s hockey coach, was in attendance also.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will host the Butte Cobras for the second time this season on Saturday, November 16th with the action set for 7:30PM at the Great Falls Ice Plex. Great Falls is 4-0 against Butte this season. Live streaming coverage of all Americans games can be seen on HockeyTV throughout the season.
Additional Media Coverage: November 18, 2019: ABC/FOX Montana (KFBB): Winning A Game in Two Periods? Americans Experience a rarity