By Lee Vernoy, Tribune Sports Writer
February 9, 2015
Blake Babineau had a knack for being in the right place at the right time Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately for the homestanding Great Falls Americans, Babineau wears the colors of the Helena Bighorns.
Babineau had a pair of third period goals that sent Sunday’s NA3HL Frontier Division matinee into overtime and then a shootout period, in which Brian Skillicorn’s goal as the ninth Helena shooter helped knock off the Americans 3-2 in front of 595 paying customers at the IcePlex. The loss snapped the Americans’ brief two-game winning streak and brings the Bighorns to within three points of the division- leading Americans. Great Falls got a point due to the regulation tie, making their record 30-8-3 for 63 points, while the Bighorns are now 29-9-2 for 60 points. And lurking like a shark in a fishbowl, one point behind Helena, is third-place Gillette at 29-12-1 for 59 points.
The Americans, bound for the postseason along with Helena, Billings and Gillette, have just a half-dozen games left in the regular season, including home matches the final weekend against Glacier and Billings, respectively.
Americans coach Jeff Heimel doesn’t think the loss hurt his team at all.
“Getting five out of six points on a weekend after losing five in a row, and we make one mistake and (Helena) capitalizes on it,” Heimel said. “It is what it is. We got a crucial point, and obviously, and the end of a tight race for the playoffs, it was important for us to get five out of six.
“I’m extremely happy with the way our team played. We ended up on the wrong end of that one. I felt like we could have one that game. I felt that we played pretty good for most of it, and I feel our team is playing the best hockey its played all year.”
If anyone showed up for the game after the first minute, they missed a lot. Kody Page put Great Falls on the board 44 seconds after the faceoff off passes from Josh Larson and Lucas Lomax.
Six minutes later, Lomax rang up another goal, this time with help from Page and goalie Lauren Massie on a power play after Gavin Lubin got whistled for a double minor.
After a quiet second stanza, Babineau put his signature on two tallies in the third. The first, at 3:25 of the frame, came on assists from Kendall Bolen-Porter and Rory Bock.
The second, just ten minutes later, was unassisted, coming when Babineau skated between a pair of Great Falls players, stole a pass, and buried the biscuit into the basket.
“We had a clearing attempt that didn’t get out of the zone,” Heimel said. “We gave up a breakaway, so no harm, no foul on our goaltender. Lauren had an unbelievable night. We just need to get that puck out.”
Massie, the Wassilla, Alaska native had 37 saves on the night, while his counterpart, Grant Martens, had 50.
Babineau was first to shoot in the shootout, and missed wide, before Larson skated in on Martens and found the back of the net. Sadly, it was the only time the Americans would rip the nylon in the shootout. Johnny Bonta, the last of the first five shooters, got the puck past Massie to send it into sudden death.
Skillicorn, the ninth man on the shooter’s list for the Bighorns, deked right on Massie, then moved left and calmly slid the puck into the net, then watched as Martens would steer Georgy Ostapchuk’s attempt wide to preserve the Helena win.
The Americans will take to the road to Cody, Wyoming this Thursday and Friday against the Yellowstone Quake, then several members of the squad will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan for the NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament.
Representing the Americans in Michigan will be Lucas Lomas, Wade Wylie, Lauren Massie, Josh Larson, Miles Giorgione, Arseny Ivanov, and Lucas Stover.
Helena ………………………………….0 0 2 0 1 — 3
Great Falls …………………………….2 0 0 0 0 — 2
Helena wins in shootout, 2-1
First period — 1. GF, Cody Page (Josh larson, Lucas Lomax), :44. 2. GF, Lomax (Page, Lauren Massie), 6:20 (pp). Second period — no scoring.
Third period — 3. Hel, Blake Babineau (Kendall Bolen-Porter, Rory Bock), 3:25. 4. Hel, Babineau, 13:27.
Overtime — no scoring.
Shootout — Hel, Babineau NG, Matt Mohar NG, Brandt Miller NG, Bolen-Porter NG, Johnny Bonta G, Jay Forbes NG, Brandon Mills NG, Kyler Chartier NG, Brian Skillicorn G. GF, Larson G, Page NG, Lomax NG, Reed Link NG, Malachi Bushey NG, Arseny Ivanov NG, Dylan Garton NG, Erik Gatson NG, Georgy Ostapchuk NG.
Shots on goal — Hel 9-16-11-3—39. GF, 16-19-13-4—52.
Goalies/saves — Hel, Grant Martens (52-50). GF, Lauren Massie (39-37).
Power play opportunities — Hel, 0-3. GF, 1-6.
Story Courtesy: Great Falls Tribune (February 9, 2015)