By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., October 15, 2016 — After narrowly escaping with a 3-2 victory on Friday night against the Missoula Jr. Bruins (3-4-0-1) in Missoula, the Great Falls Americans (6-2-1-1) were hoping to go 3-0 as they returned to the Great Falls Ice Plex to challenge the newest member of the NA3HL’s Frontier Division on Saturday evening.
The Americans quickly found out that the Missoula Bruins had other plans.
Misha Akatnov scored four goals and one assist to lead the Missoula Jr. Bruins to a 7-3 road win against the Great Falls Americans on Saturday night as 842 fans witnessed the third meeting in two weeks between these two junior hockey teams.
Great Falls had plenty of opportunities to come away with some points during the first period but neither team’s offense was able to find the back of the net. The Americans took 3 more shots than visiting team from Missoula (12-9).
One day removed from scoring one goal against the Americans, Missoula forward Misha Akatnov scored two of his four goals during an offensive attack after the first intermission. The Russia native put the first two points on the board during the first 8:39 of the second stanza. Alaska native Payton McSharry tacked on a third goal for the NA3HL’s first year squad. Both teams accounted for 15 shots.
Akatnov and DJ Lamartina each scored once during the opening 48 seconds of the third to increase the lead to 5-0. Payton McSharry picked up his second assist on Akatnov’s tally. Great Falls tried to rally during the final 14 minutes but came up short. Three minutes later, Brendan Jester score off the pass from Danny O’Donnell, and Tegan Harrington cut the deficit for Jeff Heimel’s squad to 3-1. Malachi Bushey and Jester netted the next two scores during a 5:42 stretch to put the game to within two points (5-3). Normunds Vibans, Mitchell Ramstad, Tegan Harrington and Quinn Stuebner each registered an assist on the previous two Great Falls scoring drives.
The rest of the game belonged to the Bruins. Christian Ward secured his second goal of the season while Akatnov achieved his fourth goal for a hat trick during the final 89 seconds of play.
Leading the way for the visiting team was Akatnov, who finished with 4 goals while teammate Payton McSharry dished out three assists and scoring once. Brendan Jester added two scores and Tegan Harrington provided two assists.
Missoula sent three players to the penalty box during the second period while Great Falls sent four during the sixty-minute contest. Both teams combined for 0-for-6 in the shots-on-goal category.
Julius Huset, one of the top goaltenders in the NA3HL, swatted away 42 of the 45 shots as the winning goalie for Missoula. Starting goaltender Nick Nast appeared during the first two periods before being relieved by Kyler Ayers in the final period. Nast recorded 21 saves in the loss while Ayers finished with 11
NEXT CONTEST: The second place Great Falls Americans will play two games in Gillette, Wyoming next Friday and Saturday (October 21-22) against the third place Wild (5-1-0-0) with action starting each night at 7:05PM from the Spirit Hall Ice Arena. The Americans will return home the following week for a contest on Friday, October 28th against the Helena Bighorns.
Additional Media Coverage: October 15, 2016: Great Falls Tribune: Americans suffer rare loss at Ice Plex