By Steve Schreck, Tribune Sports Writer
January 17, 2014
Following an emotional, hard-fought 4-3 overtime loss against the American West Hockey League’s top team on Wednesday, the Great Falls Americans returned to its home ice Friday to face the worst team in the league.
The risk of a letdown was there.
After a slow and uninspiring first period where the Icedogs led at intermission 1-0, the Americans responded with a much more noticeable effort in the second period en route to a 6-3 win, improving their record to 26-6-2 on the season and 15-2 at the IcePlex. The Icedogs fell to 4-25-2.
Head coach Jeff Heimel spent 25 minutes in the Americans’ locker room talking to his team following the win. Even in a win, he wasn’t happy with the effort.
“Even against Helena on Wednesday, I felt like we started slow in the first period,” said Heimel. “I feel like we’ve started slow a lot this year. We need to take a long look at the preparation … I think sometimes you can overlook an opponent a little bit, but I don’t think you should ever do that. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”
Steven Goran sparked the scoring with his 15th of the season a minute and a half into the second period, and Cody Page (15), Jonathan Carpenter (5) — on a great backhand feed by Goran in the slot — and Tanner Doty (1) followed to take a 4-1 lead heading into the third.
“We had a long talk during the first intermission about competing for loose pucks,” said Heimel. “I don’t think we had any pressure on their defense in either the offensive zone or neutral zone. I think we gave them way too much time to make plays … We were lucky to get four goals out of it (in the second period). I think it was a huge turnaround.”
Aaron McInnis added his team-leading 24th tally of the season late in the third, a highlight-reel, top shelf goal, which extended the lead to 5-1. Zachary Mese also scored his 20th of the year late in the third.
The Americans killed off a lengthy 5 on 3 disadvantage to open the third period, a period that featured several penalties in a game that was tough, physical and hard-hitting. Both teams combined for 46 penalty minutes.
Friday night’s game, which was played in front of 883 fans, marks the start of a five-game home stand for the Americans, which, after a month-long road trip in December, is something they are looking forward to. Great Falls’ next game is against Glacier on Thursday. On Friday night, the league’s top team, the Helena Bighorns, visit the IcePlex.
“It’s exciting,” said Heimel about the home stand. “I know my wife is excited that I am not going to be gone every night. It’s good. We have a very, very good home record this year. We seem to be comfortable at home … I think we were able to put together a pretty decent record on the road, but yeah, it’s definitely nice to be here and relax a bit.”
Story Courtesy: Great Falls Tribune: Junior A Hockey: Americans skate past Ice Dogs (January 17, 2014)