By Kevin Scott
GREAT FALLS, Mont., March 1, 2015 — With the Great Falls Americans (34-10-3) having already clinch the 2015 NA3HL Frontier Division regular season title with a 5-1 win on Friday night against Glacier, the regular season finale against Billings will be a preview of what is to come during the playoffs.
Great Falls and the Billings Bulls (25-16-6) will square off in game one of the NA3HL Frontier Divisional Semi-Finals on Thursday night (March 5th) in Great Falls. Great Falls will head to Billings for Friday’s second game of the best-of-three series and if necessary, game three would be back at the Great Falls Ice Plex on Sunday, March 8th.
But first, these two teams need to finish out the regular season against each other.
The Americans have won four out of their seven games against the Billings franchise this season including two shutout victories and a shootout loss. Coach Jeff Heimel’s squad likes to win at home coming into the final regular season game with an 18-5-1 mark at the Ice Plex and a similar record on the road (16-5-2).
The Billings Bulls scored two first period goals to escape with a 2-1 victory despite a comeback attempt by the Great Falls club in the final period as 715 spectators viewed the final regular season game of the 2014-15 season at the Great Falls Ice Plex on Sunday afternoon.
Ralfs Karelis and Josh Neumann each scored goals for the Billings Bulls to open up the first period. Reed Kaiser, Cole Emery and Billings native Tristan Henrichs came away with the assists as the Bulls led by two goals (2-0) after the first twenty minutes of play. The Americans did manage to out-shoot the visiting team 18-8 during the first stanza but could not find a way to get the puck in the net.
Great Falls and Billings came away with a scoreless second period. Despite trailing by two goals, the host team registered 21 more shots on goal than Billings (36-15) before the second intermission.
Great Falls took advantage of their only successful power play opportunity in the third period as Great Falls native Blake got the puck to Malachi Bushey for the score with 5:12 remaining over Billings goaltender Cole Semchak. Hunter Garris also assisted on the final points of the game. Billings prevented any Great Falls comeback with their defensive stops in the final minutes.
The Americans won the shots-on-goal category 52-19 over Billings. Cole Semchak added 51 saves to his regular season total of 840 in the win for the Bulls. Jordan Moran stopped 17 of the 19 shots by the Billings offense and has now won four of his six games (12-6 overall) with Great Falls since coming over from a trade with the North Iowa Bulls in January. The Prior Lake, Minnesota native finished with 412 saves this season including 102 with the Americans.
Great Falls had four minor penalties resulting in eight minutes of penalty time while Billings received five minors for 10 minutes.
The top-ranked Americans will face #4 Billings in the 2015 NA3HL Frontier Divisional Semi-Finals with game one set for Thursday night (March 5th) in Great Falls at 7:00PM. The best-of-three series will shift to BIllings for the second game on Friday, March 6th and if necessary, the third and final game will be hosted by the Americans on Sunday, March 8th at 7:00PM.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will face off against the Billings Bulls in game one of the NA3HL Frontier Divisional Semi-Finals on Thursday, March 5, 2014 at 7:00PM at the Great Falls Ice Plex. The second game in the best-of-three series will take place at the Centennial Ice Arena in Billings on Friday, March 6th at 7:30PM.
|Period 1||Period 2||Period 3||Final|
First Period – 1, Billings, Ralfs Karelis (Cole Emery, Reed Kaiser), 12:24. 2, Billings, Josh Neumann (Tristan Henrichs), 16:43.
Second Period – NO SCORING
Third Period – 3, Great Falls, Malachi Bushey (power play) (Blake Miller, Hunter Garris), 14:48.
Shots on Goal – Great Falls 52, Billings 19.
Power-play Opportunities – Great Falls 1-for-2, Billings 0-for-1.
Attendance – 715
Story Courtesy: Great Falls Tribune: Americans drop finale; Billings beats Great Falls in playoff preview (March 1, 2015)