GF Tribune: Americans defeat Gillette

Photo: Courtesy of Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune Photographer

By Steve Schreck, Tribune Sports Writer

October 4, 2014

Two Great Falls Americans shots from the point equaled two points and a win Saturday night.

The Americans, which moved to 5-0 on the season, defeated the Gillette Wild 3-1 at the IcePlex in front of 710 fans. With the victory, Great Falls remains in sole possession of first place in the Frontier Division with 10 points.

“I saw a fast-paced hockey game on both sides,” Americans’ head coach Heimel said. “A good up-and-down hockey game. I think we played well.”

Gillette’s Alex King scored the first goal of the game in the second period. With 13:50 remaining, the puck bounced off the referee’s skate near the corner wall, which kicked it into the slot, and King controlled it and buried home a slow backhander that fooled and handcuffed goaltender Lauren Massie.

“I even said it on the bench, bad bounce,” Heimel said. “And they were ready and they capitalized. After that, we were pretty good. We gave away a little bit at times, but for the most part, we minimized high quality scoring chances.”

Americans’ Miles Giorgione knotted the game with 5:22 left in the second. On the power play, Giorgione ripped a slap shot from the point – a shot that was headed wide – but it deflected off a Gillette player in front and found the back of the net. Great Falls outshot Gillette 17-10 in the second, and 47-28 for the game.

The Americans had their chances in the second. Zach Mese, on a nice tic-tac-toe passing play on a well-executed power play, had a wide-open net standing back door, but shot it wide. Less than four minutes later, Adam Apangalook showed off his now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t speed on a breakaway, but wristed it high trying for the top shelf.

With less than two minutes left, Robert Kalata led a 3-on-1 for the Americans, but decided to hold on to it and was stopped. Kalata also had another breakaway earlier, but was stoned on the backhand.

“We definitely had a multitude of scoring chances,” Heimel said. “Like I’m talking tap-ins, pucks laying in the crease. This game could have potentially had a very, very different outcome as far as the score is concerned, but I think we have to work on bearing down on our chances a little bit.”

With 9:52 left in the third, Hunter Garris found the back of the net on a wrist shot from the point, the game-winning goal. Kalata served as a screen on Wild goalie Alex Freese, who played well in net for Gillette, stopping 44 shots.

“I saw that (Jonathan) Carpenter had a lot of time on the half wall,” said Hunter Garris. “And he just made a tape-to-tape pass. I saw a lane and shot, lucky bounce.”

Dylan Garton scored an empty-netter with 12 seconds left.

Heimel said his team was trying to get traffic in front of the net all night. It was an important win Saturday, Garris said.

“Especially against better teams like this, we have to get the two points just so they know that we are at the top of the league,” Garris said.

Heimel said the emphasis this week has been on the “little things.” It’s something they did very well, he said, on Friday and Saturday night. He was happy with the series this weekend and that they only allowed two goals in two games. Massie came up big in the final minutes Saturday, stopping several point-blank shots. Massie stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced.

“He’s a goalie who can win a hockey game any night for us,” Heimel said of Massie.

Heimel said before the season that this is the best group of defensemen he’s coached in Tier III junior hockey. It helps when they are scoring goals, too, something Giorgione and Garris, both defensemen, did Saturday night.

If the Americans bury their chances – something they didn’t do – look out, said Heimel.

“I think we have a very, very good defensive core and goaltending,” Heimel said. “And I think we’re going to win a lot of hockey games if we’re patient. If we start putting some in, it could be a different story. We could really run away with a few here.”

On Friday, the Americans had a 2-1 win over the Wild.

Great Falls’ Evan Hauser stopped 28 of the 29 shots he faced, and Garton scored the game-winning goal, assisted by Cody Page and Erik Gatson, in the final minutes. Hauser, who moved to 3-0 with the win, has one shutout, a 1.00 goals against average and is stopping .958 percent of the shots thrown his way.

Story Courtesy: Great Falls Tribune (October 4, 2014)