By Tribune Sports Staff
March 14, 2015
Lucas Lomax broke a third-period tie and goaltender Jordan Moran registered 39 saves as the Great Falls Americans defeated the Helena Bighorns 5-2 Friday night in Game 1 of the best-of-3 NA3HL championship playoff series at the IcePlex.
The Junior A Tier III series for the Frontier Division of the North American 3 Hockey League continues Saturday night in Helena. If necessary, Game 3 will be played Sunday night back at the IcePlex.
A Lomax power-play goal ignited Great Falls in the third period, when the Americans scored three unanswered goals.
The Americans, 37-10-3 this season, improved to 5-2-2 against defending league champion Helena and are now one victory of completing a remarkable turnaround.
Just three years ago, the fledgling Americans franchise finished 1-37 in the now-defunct America West Hockey League. Head coach Jeff Heimel arrived last year, however, and the Great Falls club made great strides.
One more victory and the Americans will win the championship of their league and qualify for the six-team NA3HL Silver Cup Championship tournament in Geneva, Ill., March 19-22. The top two finishers at the Silver Cup move on to the Tier III National Championships in Simsbury, Conn.
The Americans dominated the third period Friday, scoring three goals in the first eight minutes. Lomax scored on a power play about three minutes in, assisted by Tanner Dodd, to put the home team ahead.
Arseny Ivanov found the back of the net at the 6:42 mark, assisted by Austin Krantz and Hunter Garris. Then exactly a minute later, Dodd scored, assisted by Robert Kalata and Dylan Garton, to give Great Falls a 5-2 advantage.
Great Falls got off to a great start before an enthusiastic crowd at the IcePlex. Arseny Ivanov scored just 55 seconds into the game for the Americans, but the advantage didn’t last. Josh Larson assisted on the early goal.
Helena scored a pair of first-period goals and led 2-1 after 20 minutes. Cody Vanthournout and Brian Skillcorn found the net for the Bighorns.
The Americans tied it in the second period on Larson’s power-play goal, assisted by Cody Page and Lomax.
Larson finished with a goal and two assists, while Ivanov scored twice.
Great Falls outshot Helena 29-25 through two periods, but couldn’t pull ahead. Though the Bighorns outshot the Americans 16-12 in the final period, the Great Falls team made its shots count.
Americans 5, Bighorns 2
Helena ………………………………………..2 0 0 – 2
Great Falls ……………………………………1 1 3 – 5
Period 1 – 1. Great Falls – Arseny Ivanov (Josh
Larson) 0:55. 2. Helena – Cody Vanthournout (John-
ny Bonta, Brandt Miller) 12:06. 3. Helena – Brian
Skillicorn (Brandt Miller) 19:24.
Period 2 – 4. Great Falls – Josh Larson (power
play) (Cody Page, Lucas Lomax) 2:32.
Period 3 – 5. Great Falls – Lucas Lomax (power
play) (Josh Larson, Lucas Stover) 2:51. 6. Great Falls
– Arseny Ivanov (Hunter Garris, Austin Krantz) 6:42.
7. Great Falls – Tanner Dodd (Robert Kalata, Dylan
Power play opportunities – Helena 0-for-6.
Great Falls 2-for-6.
Shots on goal by period –
Great Falls 17-12-12—41.
Goalies-saves – Helena, Grant Martens (36 saves
on 41 shots). Great Falls, Jordan Moran (39 saves
on 41 shots).
Story Courtesy: Great Falls Tribune (March 14, 2015)