By Tribune Sports Staff
April 1, 2016
ROMEOVILLE, Ill. – It took some time, but the Great Falls Americans have the Yellowstone Quake all figured out.
The two Frontier Division members met for the 11th time this season Friday night.
Just a little more than a week ago, before the puck dropped in the league finals between the Americans and the Quake, the hockey squad from Great Falls had struggled to a 3-5 mark against the regular-season champions from Wyoming.
Eight days later, Jeff Heimel’s Americans have won three times in as many tries against Yellowstone and captured a Frontier title in the process. Smooth-skating forward Wade Wylie registered a hat trick, net minder Lauren Massie stopped 20 of 21 shots and the Americans blew out the Quake 8-1 in the North American 3 Hockey League’s Silver Cup on Friday night.
“We did what we did in the finals,” Heimel said, “bottle up their forwards and be patient. We wanted to keep them contained and we knew we’d have our opportunities.”
Heimel was complimentary of Massie’s performance between the pipes. Massie, who went 16-7-1 in the regular season with a 1.86 goals against average and .929 save percentage, hadn’t played since March 12.
“Lauren played fantastic,” Heimel said. “We were so proud of how he played. That’s the benefit of having two guys who can play like that.”
The Americans reached 40 wins with the triumph, improving their record to 40-12-2 on the season. Wylie tallied five points, and Tegan Harrington, Josh Larson, Stevan Goran, Tyler Garcia all had two points apiece. Blake Miller, the former C.M. Russell High athlete, notched a plus-2.
With the win, Great Falls, winless in this tournament a year ago, advances to the semifinal round Saturday. Great Falls, the second-place finisher in Pool A, will play the Metro Jets (Mich.) at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Jets won Pool B play with a 3-0 record.
“It’s a big step for our program,” Heimel said. “But the goal is to win a championship. It’s not enough to just be in the semifinals. We want a banner. We want a championship.”
Twin City (Minn.) and North Iowa will play first at 1 in the afternoon in the other semifinal contest.
The Americans, meanwhile, went 2-1 during pool play, defeating the Point Mallard (Ala.) Ducks 2-1 on Wednesday and falling to the North Iowa Bulls 4-1 on Thursday night.
With the backup Massie earning the nod over Jake Stephan on Friday night, the Americans fell behind 1-0 with 7:40 remaining in the first period. But Great Falls countered with the game’s next eight goals – from Goran (2), Garcia, Austin Krantz, Wylie (3) and Larson – to run the Quake out of the rink.
Wylie’s night drew praise from the fourth-year head coach.
“He was definitely very, very good tonight,” Heimel said of Wylie.
A team that has suffered inconsistency on the power play all season, Great Falls capitalized on four of its six chances with the man advantage and out-shot its opponent 38-21 for the game, including a 27-12 differential in the final two periods. Both teams combined for 46 penalty minutes.
“Our power play was unreal tonight,” Heimel said.
Americans 8, Quake 1
Yellowstone 1 0 0 – 1
Great Falls 2 2 4 – 8
First period – 1. Yellowstone, Jake Dickison (Hunter Ruschmeyer) 12:20. 2. Great Falls, Stevan Goran (Wade Wylie) 15:16. 3. Great Falls, Tyler Garcia (Wade Wylie) 19:40 (pp).
Second period – 4. Great Falls, Austin Krantz (unassisted) 3:27 (pp). 5. Great Falls, Wade Wylie (Tyler Garcia) 14:39 (pp).
Third period – 6. Great Falls, Wade Wylie (Tegan Harrington) 4:43. 7. Great Falls, Josh Larson (Tanner Congdon) 7:47. 8. Great Falls, Stevan Goran (Tegan Harrington, Tyler Garcia) 13:17. 9. Great Falls, Wade Wylie (Josh Larson) 17:09 (pp).
Shots on goal – Yellowstone 9-3-9—21. Great Falls 11-9-18—38.
Power play opportunities – Yellowstone 0-for-5. Great Falls 4-for-6.
Goalies (shots-saves) – Yellowstone, Lance Knudson (L, 38-30). Great Falls, Lauren Massie (W, 21-20).
Story Courtesy: Great Falls Tribune: Americans crush Quake, move on to Silver Cup semis (April 1, 2016)