By Kevin Scott
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GILLETTE, Wyo., November 19, 2021 — For the second consecutive week, the Great Falls Americans (9-7-2-1) faced another undefeated team in the NA3HL’s Frontier Division.
After a 4-2 setback to the #1 Helena Bighorns (18-0-0-0) last Sunday in Great Falls (see game story), the Americans embarked on their second road trip of the 2021-22 season to Gillette, Wyoming. On the weekend of September 24-25th, the Great Falls Americans were forced to move their home weekend series against the #2 Gillette (WY) Wild (17-0-0-0) to Wyoming as the Great Falls Ice Plex was having some ice repairs being made. The Americans were denied two wins as the Wild, coached by former Great Falls Americans Associate Coach, Ethan Hayes, won both games by a one goal difference in overtime. Canadian Saizha Norweigian scored four points (3 goals, 1 assist) and half of his team’s goals as Wyoming came away with a 6-5 win (see game story) in an extra frame. Thomas Gazich (two goals) and Hunter Maschke (1 goal, 2 assists) led Great Falls, who came up just short of the upset win on September 24th. The following night, Gillette’s Declan Young and Caleb Sanborn each delivered a goal and dished out two assists in a 4-3 overtime victory. In a losing effort, Great Falls’ Hunter Maschke scored two of the three goals (see game story).
On Friday, Great Falls was looking to upend the Wild and serve them their first loss of the season. Six out of the eight teams that make up the Frontier Division had tried to outlast the Wild but have not been successful including Wyoming rivals, the Yellowstone (Cody) Quake and the Sheridan Hawks along with the Bozeman Ice Dogs, Butte Cobras and Great Falls Americans and one of the NA3HL’s newest teams, the Badlands (Rapid City, SD) Sabres. The two undefeated teams (Helena and Gillette) in the division have yet to meet up but that will occur on December 3-4 at the Helena Ice Arena.
The #2 Gillette Wild jumped out to a 3-0 lead late in the second period against the #4 Great Falls Americans and held off a late rally by the visitors to pull away with a 4-2 win in Gillette, Wyoming on Friday evening in NA3HL Frontier Division junior hockey action at the Spirit Hall Ice Arena. Declan Young scored two goals and an assist in the win. Daniel Crutcher and Tyler Sunagel scored once, and Jackson Henningsgard collected two assists in the setback for the Americans.
Gillette forward Declan Young scored the first of his two goals in the opening period with assistance from Brock Trboyevich and Caleb Sanborn with twelve minutes remaining in the first period. Great Falls and Gillette skated the rest of the period without scoring despite 29 total shots.
The Wild led 3-0 during the first 15 minutes of the middle stanza with goals coming from Tristan Baker and Declan Young, who provided his second. Young provided the assist on Baker’s goal that came eight minutes into the frame on a power play. Tristan Baker and Jacob Guitard helped Young get his 23rd goal of the season. Before the second intermission, Great Falls got on the scoreboard as Jackson Henningsgard’s 14th assist came as Daniel Crutcher buried the puck in the net. Gillette’s offense created 27 shots while holding Great Falls to 9.
Five minutes into the last period of regulation, Great Falls’ Tyler Sunagel took advantage of a penalty by the Wild to cut the deficit to 3-2. Jackson Henningsgard was responsible for setting up the second scoring drive by the Montana team. Seven minutes later, Sky Solig, who joined the Wyoming team last month, scored his eighth goal on the unassisted play that proved to be last goal for either squad.
A total of 15 penalties dotted the scoresheet including two majors (penalties) called on the host team. Most of the penalties came during the first and second periods with three occurring after the second intermission. Both Gillette and Great Falls scored on their only power play chance of the night.
The Wild attempted a game-high 27 shots in the middle period and found themselves taking 66 after the sixty-minute contest ended. The Americans had 19 of their 30 shots before the third period.
Declan Young led the way for former Great Falls Americans Associate Coach Ethan Hayes’ unbeaten squad with three points (2 goals, 1 assist). A trio of player got their names mentioned in the scoring column for Great Falls with Daniel Crutcher and Tyler Sunagel scoring the goals and both assists went to Jackson Henningsgard in the Americans tenth loss of the year.
Jake Turek’s unblemished record went to 8-0-0-0 on the season as the North Branch, Minnesota netminder accrued 28 saves for the winning team. Zac Hattan got the start and his second loss (3-1-1-0) but not before amassing 62 saves on 66 attempts.
NOTES: Two teams in the Frontier Division continued their winning ways on Friday as the #1 Helena Bighorns cruised to a 6-2 road win over the Cody, Wyoming based Yellowstone Quake on Friday evening (see box score) while Gillette downed Great Falls, 4-2 at home.
NEXT CONTEST: The fourth meeting between Gillette and Great Falls will take place on Saturday, November 20th with the game from the Spirit Hall Ice Arena starting at 7:05PM (MST). Both teams will square off again in Wyoming before the Christmas break on December 10-11th. HockeyTV will provide the coverage of all the home and away games for the Great Falls Americans this season.
The Americans will be home for Thanksgiving Weekend (November 26-27) as they take on one of the newest members of the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL), the Badlands (SD) Sabres beginning at 7:30PM (MST) from the Great Falls Ice Plex on Friday and Saturday for their final home games until December 31st when they close out 2021 with a pair of games against the Butte Cobras.
Additional Media Coverage: November 17, 2021: 560AM-KMON: Weekly Radio Interview by KMON’s Randy Bogden with Great Falls Americans Head Coach Greg Sears every Friday morning. Click here to listen to the full interviews.