GF Tribune: New coach optimistic as Americans open home hockey season

GF Tribune: New coach optimistic as Americans open home hockey season

By Scott Mansch (smansch@greatfallstribune.com)

September 20, 2018

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – The hockey coaching career of Greg Sears has taken him in recent years to Wisconsin, Wyoming and Georgia.

He believes his family has found a home in Great Falls.

“So far so good,” said Greg, the first-year head coach of the Great Falls Americans. “We’re adjusting well.”

So, too, are the Americans adjusting to a new man behind the bench. Greg has replaced Jeff Heimel, who had a highly successful tenure with the Americans before taking a position to lead the new hockey program at the University of Providence.

Greg and the Americans began the NA3HL season recently with three road victories and open their home schedule Friday night at 7:30 when the Yellowstone Quake visit the Great Falls IcePlex.

But first, Greg consented to join our panel as the We Pick The Winners contest continues.

Greg and his wife, Serena, are both Wisconsin natives. Their family includes children Carson, 9, Olivia, 7, and Gracie, 1.

They’re all Packer fans.

But hockey ice is more important than the Ice Bowl to Greg right now.

I think we’ve got the potential to be pretty good,” he said. “We’re veteran-led, with 12 or 13 returners. So there’s a good core from last year’s team and a good group from two years ago that lost to us (in the league championship) to Yellowstone.”

Team leaders for the Americans figure to be returning veterans Matt Janke, Jens Juliussen, Payton McSharry and Drew Seites. The latter is a talented goaltender. Among the newcomers are 6-7 forward Seth McLean of Scarborough, Australia and forward Alexi Suchomlin of Moscow, Russia.

Defenseman Braxton Lorenz and backup goalie Cam Macintosh are both from Great Falls. Lorenz had six assists on Saturday as the Americans improved to 3-0 with a 13-1 victory over Yellowstone in Cody, Wyo.

“This is a big season for Braxton,” Greg said. “He’s definitely a leader. I think he’s one of the most improved guys on the team.”

The Americans have had significant success in recent seasons under Heimel. Sears is well aware. He was an assistant on a fantastic Yellowstone team two years ago.

“I’m very familiar with Great Falls,” he said. “Playing here as a visitor was tough, so I’m excited to be on the other side. There’s been an awesome buzz all around town and we’re hoping our rink will be filled up (Friday night) and the fans will like what they see.”

Greg, 36, was on the baseball team at St. Mary’s in Winona, Minn., and later played club hockey at the University of Minnesota. He was a high school hockey coach for eight years, including four in his hometown of Webster, Wis.

He was head coach of the Atlanta Fire U18 AAA team last year. He also worked for a time with an NAHL team in Wisconsin.

The NA3HL, a Tier III Junior A hockey league, is down to six divisions from eight. The Americans are in the Frontier Division, along with teams from Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Missoula, Gillette, Wyo., and Yellowstone (Cody, Wyo). The 47-game regular season ends in early March.

The ultimate goal remains the same: The NA3HL Silver Cup Championship tournament in Chicago in late March.

“Anything less would be a disappointment,” Greg said.

After two weeks of our contest, Scott Thompson has taken the lead with an overall record of 25-10-1. Scott, the Tribune’s Content Coach for news and sports, is too busy with soccer to watch much football. We figure that explains his success.

Anyway, Scott T. has a five-game lead over Grady Higgins and yours truly. Lee Vernoy is another game back and the Guest – Nolan Donisthorpe of Montana-Western was 7-10-1 last week – is in last place.

Story Courtesy of the Great Falls Tribune

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