By Kevin Scott
|Box Score||Game Sheet||League Scoreboard||Americans Team Statistics (Playoffs)|
HELENA, Mont., March 23, 2019 —The Great Falls Americans (41-11-0-1) and the Helena Bighorns (42-9-2-0) each won a game during the best-of-three NA3HL Frontier Division Finals with one final game left to be played on Saturday evening in Helena to see who would advance to the six-team Fraser Cup National Tournament later this upcoming week (March 27-31) in Woodridge, Illinois.
Great Falls and Helena were the top teams in the standings in the Frontier Division throughout the regular season with a dramatic Game 3 of the Frontier Division Finals to be played back in Helena after Great Falls earned a 4-goal shutout on Friday night to remain alive in the playoffs.
The Great Falls Americans trailed the Helena Bighorns 2-1 in the second period before Helena went on a 3-0 run to defeat the visiting Americans 5-1 to claim the 2019 Frontier Division championship on Saturday night as 965 fans witnessed the final showdown as the Helena Bighorns will represent the Frontier Division at the Fraser Cup Championships next week in Illinois. Elliot Plourde scored one goal and dished out three assists for coach Bob Richards’ team.
Elliot Plourde and Ian Zaleski each scored first period goals with help from four teammates including Mikhail Gavrilenko, Darren Donovan, Valery Dietz and Elliot Plourde. Helena managed 13 shots and Great Falls gathered nine during the first twenty minutes.
Jens Juliussen chipped in his final goal for Great Falls three minutes into the second period as Lindros Beard picked up the assist to cut the Bighorns lead in half (2-1). Darren Donovan and Hayden Seitz each capitalized on power play opportunities for Helena and the home team led 4-1. Elliot Plourde provided two assists while Ricard Groskops and Justin Sullivan accumulated their first assists. Nine shots separated Helena and Great Falls after two periods (29-20).
A Luc Cross pass to Nicholas Noel created the only goal for either squad in the third frame as the Bighorns scored on 3-of-their-11 power play chances.
The Bighorns took more shots in each of the three periods to finish than the Americans and finished with 42. Great Falls had 23 of their 32 after the first period.
The rivalry intensified for Game 3 as the Americans and Bighorns combined for 32 penalties with 111 minutes spent in the penalty box. Only three of the eighteen total power plays were successful. Great Falls failed to add any goals on their seven attempts.
Alexander Rogers of Helena out-dueled Great Falls’ Drew Scites in the net. Rogers (19-4 including two wins in the playoffs) redirected 31 of the 32 shots against Great Falls’ offense while Scites finished with 37 saves and allowed five goals. Scites ended his season by going 3-for-3 in the playoffs and concluded the season with 22 wins in 31 appearances (22-8-0-1).
NOTE: Great Falls Americans first-year coach Greg Sears finished his inaugural season behind the bench with 41 wins and was named an assistant coach for the Frontier Division squad in February’s Top Prospects Tournament.
The Great Falls Americans ended their 2018-19 season in second place in the Frontier Division by posting a 38-8-0-1 record in the regular season and 3-3 record in the postseason including a 2-1 semifinal series win against the Bozeman Ice Dogs. The fans watching at the Great Falls Ice Plex saw their team win 22 home games.
Great Falls Americans forward Jens Juliussen leaves the Americans program as the all-time assist leader for the Americans. The Alaska native assisted on 68 scoring plays. Payton McSharry led the team in goals scored (53 including five in playoffs) and points scored (98).
The Helena Bighorns (Frontier Division) along with the L/A (Lewiston-Auburn) Nordiques (Coastal Division), Binghamton (NY) Junior Senators (North Division), Texas Brahmas (South Division), North Iowa Bulls (West Division) and the St. Louis Junior Blues (Central Division) have all qualified for the 2019 Fraser Cup Championship taking place in Woodridge, Illinois starting Wednesday, March 27th and finishing up with the championship contest on Sunday, March 31st. The national tournament includes two round-robin games for each team followed by two semifinals contests and the championship.
To view the 2019 Playoff format and the schedule for the 2019 Fraser Cup Championship tournament, please click here.
Additional Media Coverage: March 23, 2019: Great Falls Tribune: Americans’ season over as Bighorns win series in three games
Additional Media Coverage: March 23, 2019: MTN Sports (KTVH): Helena Bighorns top Great Falls to win Frontier Division, advance to Fraser Cup Playoffs
Additional Media Coverage: March 23, 2019: 406 MT Sports: Helena Bighorns qualify for Fraser Cup with win over Great Falls Americans