By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., January 6, 2017 — On Thursday evening in Missoula, Montana, the Americans (22-3-2-3) found themselves down by two goals (4-2) early in the third period to the Missoula Jr. Bruins (17-12-1-1).
The second-place Americans forced the game into overtime when they registered two goals during the final nine minutes of regulation. Forwards Brendan Jester and Adam Vandenbos netted the goals for coach Jeff Heimel’s squad. Danny O’Donnell provided the game-winning goal two minutes into overtime for the Americans 21st victory of the season and the ninth on the road.
Would another exciting finish take place in Great Falls on Friday evening?
Payton McSharry and Tanner Congdon combined for three goals and six assists in helping the Great Falls Americans defeat the Missoula Junior Bruins for the second consecutive night by the score of 6-3 as the Americans celebrated Pam Nommensen Insurance and McDonald’s Night at the Great Falls Ice Plex.
Each team came away with some points during the opening period. Payton McSharry, the former Missoula Bruin, put the first goal in for the Americans off the stick of Tanner Congdon and Brendan Jester at the 17:05 mark. During the final two minutes before the first intermission, Missoula forward Misha Akatnov registered his 30th goal of the season to tie the contest at 1-1. Joseph Porco and Wyatt Mathews picked up the assists on the power play opportunity. The Bruins finished out the first period by out-shooting the home team 17-8. Great Falls racked up five first period penalties including one major.
The Americans and Bruins traded goals as the second period got underway. Justin Barnes of Missoula broke the 1-1 tie with 15:27 on the clock while the Americans were down a man. CJ Odlin and Bryce Dirscheri each earned one assist apiece on the successful power play chance. The lead quickly diminished for the visiting team when the Americans tied it 23 seconds later when Payton McSharry found the back of the net for the second time of the game. Tanner Congdon and Danny O’Donnell chipped in the assists. Missoula regained the lead a few minutes later. Zachary Colgrove lit up the lamp off a pass from Wyatt Mathews. The Bruins held the lead for six minutes before the Americans answered back with a goal of their own. Payton McSharry and Tanner Congdon, who received his third assist, set up the game-tying score. Great Falls took a 4-3 lead in the final 30 seconds with a Jesse Johnson score with Tanner Congdon getting his 22nd assist while Payton McSharry added his second. The middle period saw Great Falls take just eight shots but trailed 30-16 in the shots-on-goal category.
Tanner Congdon and Michael Fary each scored a goal during third period action for Great Falls. The host team increased their lead to 6-3 during a 48 second scoring span with approximately eight minutes remaining. Congdon’s score came off a dish by Danny O’Donnell while Fary’s score was assisted by Adam Vandenbos and Mitchell Ramstad.
The Americans never took over eight shots in any of the three periods and finished with 23. Missoula attempted 30 shots during the first two periods but were held to just six in the final twenty minutes.
The 701 spectators saw the teams combine for 15 infractions accounting for 33 minutes of penalty time.
Leading the way to victory for the Americans were Payton McSharry (2 goals and 2 assists) and Tanner Congdon who finished with one goal and four assists. McSharry was one goal short of a hat trick. The Bruins were paced by Misha Akatnov, Justin Barnes, and Zachary Cosgrove with one goal apiece and Wyatt Mathews ended the contest with two assists.
Nick Nast has won two straight games against Missoula in as many nights. The net-minder for the Americans recorded 33 assists. Missoula goalie Tanner Loucks allowed six goals including two in the third period for the Bruins that proved to be the deciding factor. The Spokane, Washington native had 41 saves the night before in a 5-4 overtime loss.
NEXT CONTEST: The Americans finish off their “three-games in three days” week with the Glacier Nationals coming to town on Saturday, December 7th for a 7:30PM NA3HL Frontier Division contest.