By Kevin Scott
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HELENA, Mont., January 29, 2022 — A night after the #3 Great Falls Americans (20-14-3-2) upset the #2 Helena Bighorns (33-3-2-0) at home (game story), both teams were back on the ice this time in Helena, Montana for their fifth encounter of this season.
The Helena Bighorns netted three goals in the first two periods to earn a 3-0 shutout victory over the visiting Great Falls Americans in an NA3HL junior hockey showdown in Montana’s capital city on Saturday evening. Tylor Greene and Tyler Alldrege, two of the nine players on Helena’s roster from Colorado Springs, Colorado, along with Iowa native TJ Norris each successfully made goals for the host team. Great Falls is now 1-4 when they faced the Bighorns this season.
Nearly seventeen minutes went off the clock before a score was made during the first twenty minutes of action. The Bighorns took advantage of the Americans penalty time to add the first goal of the game when Tylor Greene found the back of the net over Americans goalie Zac Hattan. Adam Harvey and Taber Gutschick assisted to give the Bighorns the early advantage. Both Greene (second in league with 70) and Gutschick (seventh in league with 65) are in the top seven in the NA3HL in points scored. Greene and Gustchick along with teammates Samuel Feemster and Eric Buchholz were each selected to play and Bighorns head coach Damon Hanson will coach the team in February’s Top Prospects Tournament in Pennsylvania for Team White. Team Blue will feature Great Falls forwards Jackson Henningsgard and Micah Serino and defenseman AJ Benit (view story). The shots attempted by each team’s offenses were close as Helena held a 16-11 advantage after the first stanza.
Six minutes into the middle period, Helena struck again. This time, Logan Matheny, and Branwen Pollett’s pass to TJ Norris increased the lead to 2-0. Twelve minutes later, Tyler Alldrege put the biscuit in the basket for his fifth goal of the season off the stick of defenseman Branwen Pollett, who chipped in his second assist of the night and 23rd overall. The Bighorns had possession of the puck for most of the period as they outshot Great Falls 37-5 and had a dominating 53-16 shots-on-goal advantage after the first forty minutes.
Although Great Falls tallied 13 of the 23 total shots in the third period, the visitors failed to find a way to convert any shot attempts from getting by Helena netminder Eric Buchholz. The Bighorns were also denied of any successful shots in the net.
Great Falls had the same number of shots as they did in Friday’s win (29) but could not turn the shots into goals during the sixty-minute game against their rivals. The second period saw the home team take 37 shots to finish with 63 on the night.
The junior hockey contest saw twelve penalties committed with 35 total minutes of time spent in the sin bin and one of ten power play opportunities converted. Only Tylor Greene’s first period goal came while the Americans were down a man.
Helena’s Eric Buchholz was a perfect 29-for-29 in the net for the winning side. Buchholz, in his first season with Helena, started the season with a 14-0 record and is now 18-2-2-0 on the season. Zac Hattan had 50 saves but had his record fall to 4-5-2-0 on the season for the Americans.
FRONTIER DIVISION UPDATE: The #1 Gillette Wild won for the eleven consecutive time this season as they took a 3-1 decision over the Butte Cobras (box score) and the Bozeman Ice Dogs and Sheridan (WY) Hawks won on home ice. Bozeman lit up the lamp often in a 6-3 win over the Badlands (SD) Sabres (box score) and Sheridan handed Yellowstone another loss, 3-1 (box score).
NEXT CONTEST: Due to the 2022 Top Prospects Tournament, the Americans will sit idle next week but will return to action to finish off the final two weeks of the season when they make the trip to Cody, Wyoming for a two-game series against the Yellowstone Quake on Friday, February 11th and Saturday, February 12th. The puck drops at 7:30PM (MST) at Riley Arena on both nights. The Americans will end their road trip in Bozeman, Montana for a 5:15PM (MST) start against the Ice Dogs to cap off the road trip on Sunday, February 13th. Hockey fans can catch all the live play-by-play action on the NA3HL streaming service, HockeyTV.
Additional Media Coverage: January 29, 2022: 406 MT Sports: Helena Bighorns, Great Falls Americans play to split over the weekend