By Lee Vernoy, Tribune Sports Writer
March 24, 2017
It took the Yellowstone Quake all of four minutes in the second period to ensure there would not be a sweep in the NA3HL Frontier Division Finals.
The Quake scored three goals in that span, then secured it with an empty-net tally in the third to take at 4-1 win over the Great Falls Americans in Game 2 of the best-of-three finals Friday night at the Ice Plex, disappointing 1,105 fans.
Game three will be a winner-take-all match Saturday night at 7 at the Riley Ice Arena in Cody, Wyo. The winner will represent the Frontier Division in the NA3HL Silver Cup Championships the start March 29 in Romeoville, Ill. The Americans are looking for their third straight trip to the national tournament, and would reach only with a win Saturday night in Cody.
After a scoreless opener and a major-game misconduct assessed on Tegan Harrington of the Americans for elbowing, Ricards Bernhards got the local fans cheering with an unassisted goal at 8:40.
The local fans started losing their reasons to cheer about six minutes later, when Jesse Lawman took a feed from Cosimo Yapello and Curt Greenbush to tie the match.
Then the roof fell in. Ian Doner put the Quake up for good with an unassistred goal at 18:03, then Max Meyer had an unassisted tally just 30 seconds later, to give Yellowstone a 3-1 cushion.
“We didn’t get so much complacent as we got over-emotional,” Americans’ head coach Jeff Heimel said. “We were super excited with the crowd and the atmosphere, we sort of went to sleep a little bit.
“We tried to take some chances and do a little bit too much at times, and we played outside of out means, and I think it caught up with us.”
Greenbush added an empty net goal in the final two minutes.
“They’re a good hockey team,” Heimel said about the Quake, who won the regular season by just two points over the Americans. “If you take a shift off, or a couple or three, and the puck is going to be in the back of your net.
“I think we’ve played well in the playoffs, and we’ve played consistent, but we took a couple of minutes off and they definitely too advantage of it. We need to have better pressure going back to the nets, we need to pick guys up. The goals we gave up were good goals, but I felt that we needed to work a bit harder.”
The Quake thoroughly dominated the final 20 minutes, outshooting the Americans 16-3 in the stanza and 38-32 overall. Great Falls goalie Nick Nast was saddled with the loss, saving 34 of the 37 shots he faced.
“Nick is a great goalie, a great kid,” Heimel said about the Oxnard, Calif., native. “We need to be better. But we knew this was going to be a big series. Only two points have separated us all year.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t have this any other way.”
Yellowstone improved to 43-5, with no overtime losses and three shootout setbacks. Great Falls is 41-5-2-3.
The Americans went 41-13-2 a year ago. They advanced to the North American 3 Hockey League’s national tournament, the Silver Cup, in Chicago for the second consecutive season. After not winning a game there in 2015, the Americans won twice and advanced to the semifinals last season.
Heimel has done an amazing job in his five seasons with the Great Falls team and enters Saturday night’s winner-take-all championship game with an overall Americans’ record of 174-73-13.
Yellowstone 0 3 1 – 4
Great Falls …0 1 0 – 1
First period – No scoring.
Second period – 1. GF, Ricards Brenhards, 8:40. 2. YEL, Jesse Lawman (Cosimo Yapello, Curt Greenbush), 14:33. 3. YEL, Ian Doner, 18:03. 4. YEL, Max Meyer, 18:33.
Third period – 5. YEL, Greenbush, 18:32 (en).
Shots on goal – YEL 8-14-16–38, GF 15-14-3–32 .
Power play opportunities – YEL 0-1. GF 0-3.
Goalies/saves – YEL, Ottenbacher, 32 shots/31 saves. GF, Nast 37/34.
Story Courtesy: Great Falls Tribune: Quake gets even with Americans (March 24, 2017)