By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., March 24, 2016 — After earning a 2-0 sweep of the #4 Bozeman Ice Dogs (29-12-8) in the 2016 NA3HL Frontier Divisional Semi-Finals last week, the #2 ranked Great Falls Americans (37-11-2) advanced to the Divisional Finals against the top-ranked Yellowstone Quake (37-10-4), who defeated their rivals, the Gillette Wild in three games (2-1).
Both teams met for the best-of-three Divisional Finals series that got underway in Great Falls for Game 1. In their eight games against each other, Great Falls won three out of eight including back-to-back wins in September. The Great Falls franchise has accumulated 24 goals and has allowed 25 goals in their season series. This is their second season as members of the North American 3 Hockey League’s (NA3HL) Frontier Division after winning the division championship last year.
Both squads renew their rivalry with the winner earning the right to represent the Frontier Division in the NA3HL Silver Cup Championship Tournament that will take place on March 29 – April 3rd in Romeoville, Illinois.
Great Falls Americans forward Tegan Harrington scored twice and added an assist while goaltender Jake Stephan stopped 24 of the 25 shots as Great Falls picked up a much-needed home victory over the Yellowstone Quake, 4-1 in Game 1 of the 2016 NA3HL Frontier Divisional Finals on Thursday night. The Americans, playing their final game of the season at the Great Falls Ice Plex, saw 658 fans come to cheer them on. Great Falls heads to Cody, Wyoming for the second game of a three-game series needing just one win to advance to the Silver Cup Tournament next week.
The home team started off on the right path in the first period with three goals including two by forward Tegan Harrington. Harrington scored the first of two opening period goals with 8:48 left on the clock. Josh Larson and Tanner Congdon picked up the assists to give the Americans a 1-0 lead over the regular season Frontier Division champions. The game would remain that way until Harrington found the back of the net again with help from Miles Giorgione and Kyle Johnson ten minutes later to increase the lead for the Americans (2-0). Just before the first intermission, the Americans struck again as Wade Wylie took advantage of a power play and gave Great Falls a three-goal lead on the unassisted scoring drive. During the first twenty minutes, the Montana NA3HL franchise stopped the offensive attack by Yellowstone and out-shot the Wyoming club, 18-9.
After picking up one assist in the first stanza, Kyle Johnson opened up the second period with a goal of his own off the stick of Tyler Garcia. Tegan Harrington also assisted on the only successful scoring opportunity for either squad 79 seconds into the period. The Americans scored their fourth point and had 15 shots on goal while limiting the Quake to 10.
The Americans defense came ready to play and held the top-ranked team in the Frontier Division to just one goal. That goal came in the final minute as Washington native Mason Stewart found former Billings Bulls forward Tristan Henrichs for the goal over Americans goalie Jake Stephan. Nick Greene also received an assist on the play.
The Americans took over 10 shots in each of the three periods and finished with 43. Yellowstone had 10 of their 25 in the second period. Great Falls did not give up any goals despite allowing six power play opportunities.
Wasilla, Alaska native Tegan Harrington scored two goals and one assist while teammate Kyle Johnson scored one goal and dished off one assist for the winning team. Tristan Henrichs accumulated the only points for the Quake in the third period.
Americans net minder Jake Stephan recorded 24 saves and allowed one goal all night. Great Falls’ defense made Yellowstone work between the pipes. Lance Knudson, started for Yellowstone, and made 15 stops while backup Garret Matz had 24 in the final two periods.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will be on the road against the Quake for Game 2 and if necessary, Game 3 on Saturday (March 26) and Sunday afternoon (March 27). The second game from the Riley Arena in Cody, Wyoming begins at 7:30PM while the third game on Sunday would take place at 4:00PM if the Americans don’t win on Saturday night.
Additional Media Coverage: March 24, 2016: Great Falls Tribune: Americans Take Game 1
Additional Media Coverage: March 25, 2016: ABC/FOX Montana: Americans Claim game One of Frontier Divisional Finals