By Steve Schreck, Tribune Sports Writer
November 21, 2014
The Great Falls Americans suffered their first loss of the season back on Nov. 7.
They had won 12 games before that 1-0 loss to Billings, and now have reeled off three straight since, as they take a 15-1 mark into tonight’s home game with the Glacier Nationals (1-12-3). The puck drops at 7:30 at the Great Falls IcePlex.
The Americans of head coach Jeff Heimel sit in sole possession of first place in the Frontier Division with 30 points, six points ahead of second-place Gillette.
The defeat two weeks ago wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, the head coach says.
“Obviously, at this point in the season, it’s early enough … that we feel like that was a good learning experience for us,” Heimel said. “ … If anything, it was a wake up call, like ‘Hey, we have to play our game every night.’ … I think we have responded well.”
The Americans have outscored their opponents 12-5 in the three games since, including a dominating performance against the Helena Bighorns, where Great Falls jumped out to 4-0 lead and eventually won 4-2.
“I think at the end of the day, we are a detail-orientated hockey team,” he said. “I think when we are doing all of the little things – moving our feet, finishing our checks, chipping pucks deep and using our speed.”
And special teams: The Americans lead the entire North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) in penalty kill percentage at 96.92. Great Falls has killed off 63 of the 65 instances on the penalty kill this season.
Lucas Lomax, a returnee off last year’s team who has battled concussion problems this season, has come on of late. The left-handed shot now leads the team in goals with 10. In the three games since the loss to Billings, Lomax has scored four times.
“Yeah, he’s been good,” Heimel said. “ … He’s been here two previous years and this is his third year. He definitely has that veteran poise.”
Forward Robert Kalata leads the team with a plus-15 (tied with defensemen Arseny Imanov). The Park Ridge, Ill., native has eight goals and ten assists on the season.
He’s one of the Americans’ “better, complete five-on-five players,” Heimel said.
“I just love the way he plays,” the head coach said. “He’s been a huge surprise for us this year.”
After last year’s success, the start to the season for the Americans hasn’t been too much of a surprise. They look to continue their solid play tonight against Glacier, a team they haven’t seen too much of this season.
“I think just playing a 60-minute game and being focused on what we need to do to be successful and using our depth and keeping it simple,” Heimel said on what his team is focused on tonight against Glacier.
Story Courtesy: Great Falls Tribune (November 21, 2014)