By Kevin Scott
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BILLINGS, Mont., March 5, 2016 — The Billings Bulls (9-32-6) have never beaten the Great Falls Americans (33-10-2) during the 2015-16 season.
Entering their last meeting of the season, second place Great Falls, who has already qualified as one of the four playoff teams in the Frontier Division, has won six in a row against the sixth place Bulls including a 7-1 win last Friday night in Great Falls.
The Great Falls Americans easily cruised to a 9-2 victory over the Billings Bulls on Saturday night at the Centennial Ice Arena in Billings. Eight different players scored goals for the visiting Americans including Kyle Johnson, Ricards Bernhards, Blake Miller, Tanner Congdon, Josh Larson, Brendan Jester, Tegan Harrington and Reed Link scored goals. This was their final regular season road game as next week they return to Great Falls to face the top-ranked Yellowstone Quake for two games on Friday and Saturday nights.
The visiting team held a four goal advantage after the opening period. Kyle Johnson’s short-handed goal off a pass from Tegan Harrington gave the Americans their first point of the contest with 6:30 left in the stanza. Ricards Bernhards, Reed Link, and Blake Miller all found the back of the net for coach Jeff Heimel’s squad. Josh Larson, Tanner Congdon, Tyler Garcia, Kyle Johnson, Stevan Goran, and Austin Krantz each picked up assists in the first twenty minutes.
The middle period didn’t offer a lot of scoring but each team did record one goal. Ricards Bernhards and Blake Miller set up the tally by Tanner Congdon in the first 2:32. The Bulls netted their first points near the end of the period as Dillon Steh scored against Americans goaltender Jake Stephan to cut the deficit to 5-1. Keith Gustin and Jeremy Vandekerkhove each assisted on the play. After racking up 24 shots in the first period, Great Falls had 14 more in the middle period and held the sixth place Billings squad to 23 before the second intermission.
Reed Link registered his second goal in the final period of regulation and helped Great Falls take a commanding 6-1 lead. Tegan Harrington and Tyler Garcia provided their second assists 45 seconds into the period. Josh Larson added his 14th goal of the season two minutes after Link’s score with Austin Krantz and Brendan Jester assisting. Wade Wylie found an open Brendan Jester for the Americans eighth point with under 13 minutes remaining. Mason Graves gave the Bulls their second point on a short-handed score that came off the stick of Chris Nicolai halfway through the third. The playoff bound Americans chipped in one more goal by forward Tegan Harrington. Tyler Garcia received his second assist while teammate Miles Giorgione assisted for the first time tonight.
Both teams finished with four penalties resulting in eight minutes of penalty time.
Reed Link’s first goal in the opening period was the only successful power play score by either team. Great Falls went 1-for-3 while their defense prevented any scoring opportunities by Billings in their three chances while down a man.
In addition to Reed Link’s two goals, Great Falls received help from Tegan Harrington who scored once and dished out two assists. Ricards Bernhards, Blake Miller, Kyle Johnson, Josh Larson, Tanner Congdon and Brendan Jester each accumulated one goal and one assist in the win.
Jake Stephan came up big for the Americans. The Wisconsin native allowed only two goals in 29 attempts. Billings goaltenders Brandon Brown and Gage Overby combined for 53 saves with Brown picking up the loss.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will end their regular season with a pair of games at home against the top-ranked Yellowstone Quake on Friday and Saturday (March 11th and 12th) with each night’s games starting at 7:30PM at the Great Falls Ice Plex. During the weekend games, the Great Falls Americans are teaming up with the Great Falls Association of Realtors for a fundraiser to support the flag at Overlook Park in Great Falls. For more information, please click here.