Photo: Courtesy of Laura Richesin
By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., January 25, 2020 — The #2 Bozeman Ice Dogs (30-6-0-1) were the last team the #3 Great Falls Americans (27-6-4-0) hadn’t played yet until two weeks ago.
The Americans had played the previous six teams in the Frontier Division multiple times during the first four months of the season but never faced the Ice Dogs. On January 10th in Bozeman, Montana, Bozeman earned a 3-0 shutout victory over Great Falls. This marked the first time all season that Great Falls failed to register any goals. Last Saturday evening, Great Falls fell to 0-2 against one of the top North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) teams in the league this season. Great Falls led Bozeman 2-1 after the first intermission but allowed four goals in the final two stanzas as Bozeman picked up the 5-2 win.
After tonight’s contest, the Americans face the Ice Dogs three more times during the next four weeks with two of them on the road. Great Falls will play in front of the home fans one more time on Saturday, February 22nd when they meet Bozeman for the sixth and final meeting of the regular season.
The Bozeman Ice Dogs scored three unanswered goals in the third period to earn a 4-3 decision over the Great Falls Americans in the battle of two of the top three teams in the Frontier Division standings during Saturday’s contest at the Great Falls Ice Plex. Luke Hartge chipped in two goals for the winning squad.
The first period each saw one goal scored by both teams. Jack Olson struck first for the Americans as his shot went by Bozeman netminder Conan Hayton with 8:41 remaining in the opening period. Levi Mese and Blake Nerney each recorded their 16th assist of the season. Great Falls’ lead would last five minutes before Bozeman evened up the game. Kadyn Fennell’s pass to Bozeman native Hazen McKay proved to be successful for the Ice Dogs. Luke McKay also was awarded an assist on Bozeman’s first scoring play. McKay’s 35th goal came while the Americans were in the penalty box. The Ice Dogs took five more shots (24-19) than the Americans after the first twenty minutes of action.
The middle period was scoreless for the first 17:29 with both teams putting up a combined 29 shots-on-goal. Blake Nerney earned his tenth goal with help from Dylan Olson and Jack Olson to put the Americans back on top, 2-1.
The Great Falls Americans increased their lead to 3-1 when Jack Olson and Brody Boyce added the assists on Dylan Olson’s quick goal 75 seconds into the third period. Bozeman bounced back with a pair of goals 64 seconds apart to tie the contest (3-3) three minutes after the Americans scored their third goal. Luke Hartge registered both goals for the visiting Ice Dogs. Caden Duggan, Caleb Brownell, Tadeas Aulehla and Will Kutch created the assists. Bozeman scored their third unanswered goal two minutes later to give the Ice Dogs their first lead of the night. Bozeman native Duncan McGarrah took advantage of the Americans penalty and scored their third consecutive goal of the final period of regulation in a 3:24 span to lead 4-3. McGarrah’s goal turned out to be the game-winning goal for the Ice Dogs as the final 12:35 of the third meeting between these two squads went scoreless despite many scoring attempts. Caleb Brownell and Tadeas Aulehla received their second assists.
Luke Hartge scored half of the goals (all in the third period) while Tadeas Aulehla and Caleb Brownell accumulated two assists apiece to lead the offensive attack for Bozeman. Jack Olson scored three points (1 goal, 2 assists) and Dylan Olson and Blake Nerney both scored a goal and one assist in the Americans fifth home loss at the Great Falls Ice Plex.
Great Falls outshot Bozeman in the final forty minutes (38-32) to finish one shot ahead of the visiting team, 57-56 after the game was completed.
The 1,067 loud fans at the Great Falls Ice Plex saw three power plays opportunities turned into goals. Bozeman scored on two of their six power plays while Great Falls went 1-for-7 while the Ice Dogs were in the sin bin. The NA3HL officials had a busy night calling 19 infractions that resulted in 51 minutes of penalty time.
Conan Hayton won his third game against Great Falls. The Denver, Colorado native won his 12th game in 16 appearances as a member of the Ice Dogs after going 0-4-1 with the Breezy Point North Stars (Minnesota) to start the 2019-20 season. He finished with 54 saves. Trever Mellen lost just his second win in regulation and fifth overall (9-2-0-3) for Great Falls. He stopped 52 of 56 shots and was pulled with 1:37 remaining.
So far this season with one home game remaining, Great Falls is 17-2-3 in front of the home fans and is 10-4-1 on the road. Bozeman is now 17-2-0-1 away from Haynes Pavilion and they have won 13 of 17 at home. The Ice Dogs have seven of their final ten regular season games at Haynes Pavilion.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans close out the month of January and start the month of February in Bozeman, Montana for a pair of contests next weekend against the Bozeman Ice Dogs. The games on Friday (January 31st) and Saturday (February 1st) begin at 7:30PM each night and will be available live on the NA3HL’s streaming platform, HockeyTV.
Additional Media Coverage: January 25, 2020: ABC/FOX Montana (KFBB): HIGHLIGHTS: Great Falls Americans vs. Bozeman Ice Dogs