By Kevin Scott
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HELENA, Mont., March 2, 2018 — The Great Falls Americans (32-10-2) last played the Helena Bighorns back on December 8th in Helena. The Bighorns led throughout and pulled away with a 5-3 win.
This is their first of two meetings in 2018 with Great Falls leading the season series, 4-2.
Great Falls is back to league play after taking two days off for the 2018 Top Prospects Tournament in Michigan on Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 27-28). Great Falls was represented with three players including two, who played for the Grey Team (Frontier/West Divisions), Adam Vandenbos and Drew Scites. The 18U Selects Red Team had Kody Thomas suiting up for them. The all-star hockey event features many scouts in attendance from the NCAA and National Hockey League (NHL) and many others.
The Great Falls Americans scored four of their five goals in the third period to hold on for a 5-3 victory over the Helena Bighorns at the Helena Ice Arena on Friday night. Adam Vandenbos, Michael Houlihan, Garrett Peters, Kyler Mack, and Michael Fary all netted goals for the winning squad.
Jarett Schiebel scored the first of his two goals of the night to open the first period with Helena hanging on to a 1-0 advantage going into the middle period. Hayden Seitz and Ben Kottmeier were credited with the assists for coach Bob Richards’ team. Helena took twice as many shots than Great Falls (12-6).
Adam Vandenbos, fresh off playing for the Grey team in the Top Prospects Tournament earlier this week, put the Americans on the board with his 15th goal with help from Kyler Mack and Noel Parker. The power play strike came 4:13 into the middle period. Richard Groskops helped the Bighorns reclaim the lead (2-1) near the end of the second stanza as Jarett Schiebel and Hayden Seitz provided the assists while the Americans were in a penalty. For the second straight period, Great Falls was held to six shots while Helena finished by attempting 20.
Michael Houlihan started the third period by evening up the score (2-2) with his unassisted goal coming 70 seconds into the stanza. Kyler Mack and Garrett Peters took control of the game for Great Falls with two scoring drives that came 68 seconds apart. Michael Fary, Adam Vandenbos, Kyler Mack and Ben Rinckey tallied the assists to give the Americans their first lead of the game. Jarrett Schiebel pulled Helena to within one goal (4-3) with 1:10 remaining in the contest. In addition of the assist on Helena’s third goal, Hayden Seitz also assisted on the first two scoring plays for the Bighorns. Ben Kottmeier contributed his second assist of the night for the Bighorns’ second successful power play against Great Falls’ Drew Scites, who also played in the Top Prospects Tournament this past week. Michael Fary prevented any chance that the home team had of trying to tie the contest. His 17th overall goal of the season came on an empty net score with 26 seconds on the clock. The Bighorns pulled their goalie pulled goaltender Nick Battaglia to provide another offensive threat against the Americans, but it didn’t’ work out for them in the end.
Great Falls won the shots-on-goal category in the final period (14-12) but Helena accumulated 20 of their 44 in the second stanza.
The Americans and Bighorns were penalized four times each. The difference was the number of minutes each team spent in the penalty box. Matt Janke of the visiting team was whistled for a checking from behind call that resulted in a game misconduct that added 25 additional minutes to the game sheet. The Bighorns consumed eight minutes in the sin bin.
Drew Scites, the standout goaltender for Great Falls, stopped 41 of the 44 shots. His counterpart, Nick Battaglia, played 58 minutes and earned 21 saves.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans and Helena Bighorns square off for the final time during the 2017-18 regular season again at the Helena Ice Arena on Saturday, March 3rd with the puck set to drop at 7:05PM.