By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., March 24, 2017 — Low scoring and one-point victories have been the story throughout the season when the Great Falls Americans (42-5-2-3) and the Yellowstone Quake (43-5-0-3) have met on the ice.
All six regular season meetings and Thursday night’s Game 1 of the Frontier Division Finals against the Quake have been decided either in regulation, in overtime or in two games they went into a shootout won by Great Falls.
On Thursday in the first game of the best-of-three Divisional Finals, Great Falls managed to completely shut down the offensive attack by the Yellowstone Quake in two of the three periods. The Americans didn’t have an easy time scoring either but racked up one goal in each of the first two periods and allowed one scoring drive for Yellowstone in the middle period to pick up a 2-1 win in the home arena of the Quake.
The Americans have won three straight including a pair of wins last week to sweep the Gillette (WY) Wild in the Frontier Divisional Semi-Finals and a victory against the Quake in the in the final regular season contest of the year nearly three weeks ago. Yellowstone snapped their 19-game winning streak back on March 3rd before the Americans rebounded and have since won three straight.
Great Falls needed just one victory (in two games) to secure a spot in the eight-team, five-day 2017 NA3HL Silver Cup (National Tournament) Championship slated to begin on Wednesday, March 29th in Illinois. Would they survive with a win or need to go back for the third and final game in Wyoming?
Behind the offensive efforts of Jesse Lawman, Max Doner, Max Meyer, and Curt Greenbush, the #1 Yellowstone Quake topped the #2 Great Falls Americans 4-1 in a game that didn’t see a lot of points put on the scoreboard for the host squad. Ricards Bernhards scored the only goal in the second stanza.
Both teams skated to a scoreless first period. Great Falls totaled 15 of the 23 shots taken on goal. The C.M. Russell High School Pep Band was in attendance to entertain the enthusiastic crowd of 1,105 during the final home contest of the season for the Americans.
Ricards Bernhards scored the first goal of the game for the Americans 8:40 into the middle period. The Latvia native scored his 11th goal of the season and first in the playoffs. Yellowstone reeled off three straight goals during a four-minute stretch to end the period. Jesse Lawman, Max Doner and Max Meyer each put the puck in the net. Cosimo Yapello and Curt Greenbush set up the scoring drive for Lawman’s points and Doner and Meyer’s goals went unassisted. Both teams attempted 14 shots before the second intermission.
Both offenses struggled in the final period as neither team scored during the first 18 minutes before Curt Greenbush’s slap shot added an extra point for the Quake on an empty net goal with 1:32 remaining to seal the win for the Wyoming club. The Americans managed just three shots while the Quake took 16.
Yellowstone accounted for 30 shots during the final two periods and finished with 38. The home team managed 29 total shots in the first forty minutes but the Quake’s defense forced Great Falls to take three shots in the final twenty minutes. Both teams came up empty during their combined four power play chances.
The Americans had a difficult time staying free from the penalty box. Four of their five penalties happened during the third period including an unsportsmanlike conduct accounting for the home team’s 21 minutes of penalty time. Yellowstone picked up one minor penalty in each period.
The winning goaltender was Yellowstone’s Nick Ottenbacher, who allowed one goal in 32 shot attempts. Great Falls goalie Nick Nast allowed three goals during the final minutes of the middle period and he ended the contest with 34 saves while taking his fourth loss on the season.
NEXT CONTEST: The Yellowstone Quake forced Great Falls to return to Riley Arena in Cody, Wyoming for a third game on Saturday, March 25th with the winner heading to the 2017 NA3HL Silver Cup Tournament on Wednesday, March 29th in Illinois. Saturday’s contest begins at 7:00 PM.
Additional Media Coverage: March 24, 2017: Great Falls Tribune: Quake gets even with Americans