By Kevin Scott
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HELENA, Mont., February 11, 2017 — The Great Falls Americans (33-3-2-3) have been able to pile up points and stop their Interstate 15 rivals, the Helena Bighorns (12-28-1-0) all season long with just one blemish.
Great Falls has a 6-0-1 record when they have met on the ice this season. They had one loss (3-2) in overtime back on December 10th in Great Falls. In their six previous encounters, the Americans have earned two shutout victories and have outscored the Helena-based junior hockey squad, 25-8.
The Americans were hoping for their sixth win in their second-to-last meeting this season. They will face the Bighorns on Saturday, February 18th in Great Falls.
For the second straight night, the Great Falls Americans got bailed out by one of their team leaders. Tanner Congdon scored the game-winning goal, this time in regulation, during the third period to help the second-place team in the Frontier Division escape with a 4-3 win against the Helena Bighorns during Saturday’s hockey action at the Helena Ice Arena. On Friday night, the Anchorage, Alaska native netted the game-winner in the extra period to propel the Americans to a 2-1 victory against the Missoula Bruins.
Helena and Great Falls each scored once during the first five minutes of the opening period. The Americans struck first as Americans standout Brendan Jester registered his 29th goal during the first 38 seconds while teammates Tanner Congdon and Ricards Bernhards obtained the assists. Helena put in the equalizer four minutes later when Gavin Cline, who recently came to Helena via a trade with the Glacier Nationals, captured his 13th goal of the season with help from John Heddle and Adam Apangalook, who played the past two years with Great Falls. Towards the end of the stanza, Malachi Bushey and Sandis Mezharaups tacked on goals to give the visiting team a 3-1 lead at the break. Matt Janke gathered two assists while Kody Thomas and Malachi Bushey chipped in one.
Helena out-scored Great Falls 2-0 during the next period. Adam Apangalook and Ben Kottmeier helped tie the contest up at 3-3 during the first seven minutes with one goal apiece. Apangalook’s power play score was assisted by John Heddle and Gavin Cline while assists from Kottmeier’s game-tying tally went to Bradley Estrada and Kyle Hayter. The Americans took eight more shots (38-29) than the Bighorns created during the first forty minutes of the contest.
The final period saw both defenses tighten up until Michael Fary and Adam Vandenbos aided Tanner Congdon’s score midway through the final nine minutes.
The two squads each acquired six penalties that resulted in 12 minutes in the penalty box. Apangalook’s goal for Helena was the only power play to produce any points.
Nick Nast participated in the entire game and prevented 32 of the 35 shots from the Bighorns offense from going into the net. Starting goaltender Nicholas Battaglia recorded 48 saves but captured the loss by allowing four goals for the home team.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will be in Havre, Montana to end their three-game road trip to face the Glacier Nationals at the Havre Ice Dome on Friday, February 17th at 8:00PM. The Americans will be home for their second-to-last home contest when the Helena Bighorns come to town for a 7:30PM start on Saturday, February 18th.