By Kevin Scott
BILLINGS, Mont., January 30, 2015 — The top-ranked Great Falls Americans (28-7-2) challenged the fourth-place Billings Bulls (20-13-4) four times so far this season and have defeated the Billings squad three times including a 5-2 victory three weeks ago in Great Falls.
Both teams have clinched playoff berths along with the Helena Bighorns and Gillette Wild when the regular season ends in early March.
The Billings Bulls claimed a 4-3 shoot-out win over the Great Falls Americans on Friday night at the Centennial Ice Arena where nearly 450 fans in attendance saw a fantastic finish with these two playoff-bound clubs.
Russia native Georgy Ostapchuk opened the first period with his second goal as an American and 10th overall while playing for Granite City (MN), Helena and now Great Falls this season. His goal 4:18 into the period came thanks to Zack Mese and Wade Wylie who garnered the assists. The Americans led 1-0 and edged Billings 12-11 in the shots on goal category before the first intermission.
Four total goals would be scored in the middle period with the Bulls tacking on three of their own. Josh Pena’s power play goal tied the contest up at 1-1 with less than 12 minutes left in the stanza. Cameron Birklid and Tristan Henrichs chipped in the assists for the host team. The final three goals were made in the final two minutes including a TJ Theodosopoulos goal to put the Bulls on top 2-1. Assisting on the second goal by Billings was Ralfs Karelis and goaltender Cole Semchak. Austin Krantz scored on an unassisted play less than a minute after Theodosopoulos’ points. Ian Wiljanen and Tristan Henrichs got the puck to Bryce Jensen with 11 seconds before intermission to give Billings the lead (3-2).
Krantz earned his second goal and eighth season goal two minutes into the last period of regulation for the Americans. Great Falls native Dylan Garton tallied the assist with each team scoring three times. Great Falls and Billings would not score again and the NA3HL contest went into overtime.
The game went into a shootout as neither team was able to pick up a goal in the five minute overtime.
Lucas Lomax and Reed Link each scored in the shoot-out for the Americans but Billings was able to prevail 3-2 with TJ Theodosopoulos, Cameron Birklid and Ian Wiljanen tacking on goals for the home team.
Great Falls failed to convert on any of their five power play opportunities while Billings’ Josh Pena scored the only successful power play chance in the middle period for the Bulls.
The game saw each team register seven infractions with 39 combined minutes of penalty time.
Cole Semchak received one assist and picked up the win as he stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced as goaltender for the Bulls. Lauren Massie accumulated 34 saves.
NOTES: Arseny Ivanov, Miles Giorgione, Lucas Lomax and Lucas Stover earned spots on the 2015 Top Prospects Tournament set for February 23-24th in Ann Arbor, Michigan and will play for the Frontier team. Great Falls coach Jeff Heimel was selected as the head coach of the Frontier squad. Meanwhile, goaltender Lauren Massie and forward Wade Wylie will participate for the NA3HL’s 18U Selects team. For more information about the tournament, please click here.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans return to the Great Falls Ice Plex after a five game road trip to face the Glacier Nationals on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 7:30PM.
|Period 1||Period 2||Period 3||OT||SO||Final|
First Period – 1, Great Falls, Georgy Ostapchuk (Zack Mese, Wade Wylie), 4:18.
Second Period – 2, Billings, Josh Pena (power play) (Cameron Birklid, Tristan Henrichs), 8:04. 3, Billings, TJ Theodosopoulos (Ralfs Karelis, Cole Semchak), 18:05. 4, Great Falls, Austin Krantz (unassisted), 19:11. 5, Billings Bryce Jensen (Ian Wiljanen, Tristan Henrichs), 19:49.
Third Period – 6, Great Falls, Austin Krantz (Dylan Garton), 2:02.
Overtime – NO SCORING
Shootout – Great Falls, Malachi Bushey (No Goal), Billings, TJ Theodosopoulos (Goal), Great Falls, Cody Page (No Goal), Billings, Nick Rizzo (No Goal), Great Falls, Lucas Lomax (Goal), Billings, Cameron Birklid (Goal), Great Falls, Reed Link (Goal), Billings, Ian Wiljanen (Goal), Great Falls, Dylan Garton (No Goal), Billings, Steven Thompson (No Goal).
(Billings wins shootout 3-2)
Shots on Goal – Great Falls 36, Billings 38.
Power-play Opportunities – Great Falls 0-for-5, Billings 1-for-6.
Attendance – 452