By Kevin Scott
|Box Score||Game Sheet||League Scoreboard||Americans Team Statistics (Playoffs)|
GREAT FALLS, Mont., March 17, 2017 — The Great Falls Americans (40-4-2-3) went down to Gillette, Wyoming on Wednesday night to try to pick up a victory against the Wild (37-14-1-0) in Game 1 of the best-of-three Frontier Divisional Semi-finals and the outcome put a smile on the entire Great Falls Americans organization.
Tanner Congdon scored both first period goals and another in the third period and Payton McSharry scored once in each of the final two periods to propel the visiting Great Falls Americans to a 6-2 win over the Gillette Wild and put Great Falls to within one win of going back to the Frontier Divisional Finals for the third straight year.
The question would be would Great Falls’ offense spark the team to victory or would Gillette even up the series and force a third and deciding game?
For the second consecutive night, Tanner Congdon scored three goals, Payton McSharry dished out two assists and goaltender Nick Nast stopped 30 shots as the #2 Great Falls Americans downed the #3 Gillette Wild 3-1 to close out their Frontier Divisional Semi-Finals in a two-game sweep. The 1,075 spectators at the Great Falls Ice Plex on Friday evening watched the home team hold Gillette scoreless in the first and third periods.
Friday’s victory means that the Great Falls Americans will face either top-ranked Yellowstone Quake (Cody, WY) or #5 Bozeman Ice Dogs in the Frontier Divisional Finals next week. The Quake easily defeated the Ice Dogs 8-1 in Wyoming on Friday. Matt Runyon and Jesse Lawman sparked Yellowstone to victory by scoring two goals apiece. Bozeman plays host to the Quake in the second game of their series at Haynes Pavilion on Saturday evening (7:30 PM start) with the Quake looking to sweep and advance to the Divisional Finals.
Great Falls took a one-goal lead after the first period when Brendan Jester and Payton McSharry assisted on Tanner Congdon’s lone score 4:43 into the period. Congdon, the team’s leading scorer this season with 41 goals, also scored three goals and had two assists in Wednesday’s 6-2 victory over Gillette in the first game of the Frontier Divisional Semi-finals in Gillette, Wyoming. The Gillette offense did not find a way to score but out-shot Great Falls 13-10 during the 20-minute stanza.
Tanner Congdon added his second goal of the night with assistance from Brendan Jester and Payton McSharry, who earned their second assists with 14:58 on the clock. After Great Falls increased the lead to 2-0, Gillette was successful on the power play a few moments later. Brooks Mitzel secured his first goal of the playoffs off the sticks of Jack Oberg and Hunter Feagins. Towards the end of the middle period, Tanner Congdon racked up his third goal (hat trick) for the second consecutive night. Normunds Vibans was the recipient of the assist. Great Falls attempted 14 second period shots and held the Wild to six in the period.
Great Falls controlled the tempo throughout the final period of regulation despite not finding the back of the net and held Gillette scoreless in the final frame.
Great Falls managed to get off 14 of their 33 total shots in the middle period. Gillette finished their final game of the season by taking 31 in the loss.
The lone second period goal by Gillette was the only power play chance that was successful for either team. The first home playoff contest for Great Falls saw 17 combined penalties resulting in 42 minutes of penalty time.
Americans goaltender Nick Nast (22-3-0-1) won his second straight playoff game by redirecting 30 of the 31 shots in sixty minutes of action. Gillette’s Robbie Brennan allowed three goals and concluded his final game of the season with 30 saves.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will await the winner of the other semifinal contest between the Bozeman Ice Dogs and the Yellowstone Quake for the 2017 NA3HL Frontier Finals that will start next week in a best-of-three series with the champion going to the NA3HL Silver Cup Championship in Romeoville, Illinois at the end of March.
Additional Media Coverage: March 17, 2017: Great Falls Tribune: Americans move to Frontier finals