By Lee Vernoy, Tribune Sports Writer
March 22, 2019
This is it. Game Three. Winner-take-all.
This is what is in store for the Great Falls Americans and the Helena Bighorns on Saturday, as the Americans scored early and often while goalie Drew Scites kept a clean sheet Friday night in Game Two of the Frontier Division title series, downing the Bighorns 4-0 in front of a packed house of 1,260 paying customers at the IcePlex atop of Gore Hill.
Jens Juliussen scored twice for Great Falls, the first coming just 25 seconds after the opening puck drop in the first, the second coming 38 seconds into the third period, sealing things once and for all.
He didn’t even know he scored until everyone, especially his teammates, started going crazy.
“I was just throwing it in on net, trying to get it on net for a shot, and it went in,” Juliessen, a 5-9, 170-pound forward from Alaska, said. “You get it close to the net and good things happen.”
He said the 25 seconds of elapsed time was the fastest he had scored a goal in the NA3HL.
“Playoff hockey is definitely the best hockey to be playing,” Juliussen said. “You’re with all of your guys, playing the best hockey you can be playing at the time.
“I wouldn’t want to be doing it with anyone else, you know what I mean?”
“You really got to lean on your leaders and your 98s this time of the season,” Americans’ head coach Greg Sears said. “Man, this was a fun night and a great way to close this building down for the season.”
In between Juliussen’s two goals, Nick Torres and Hendrik Robel each scored in the second period.
Unlike Juliussen’s first goal, Robel definitely saw his shot hit the net.
“Yes, I saw it go in,” Robel, a 6-2, 220pound defenseman from Germany, said. “I was at the right spot at the right time. It was a lucky bounce, and I got my stick on it.
“Those are the goals we need to win the playoffs.”
For Torres, a 145-pounder from Long Beach, Calif., the goal he scored might just be his first-ever in a NA3HL contest.
“If it isn’t, then it’s his second,” Sears said of Torres’ tally. “This is what it’s all about.
“I don’t know if you caught his face or his celebration, but that young guy got his first goal of the season in the playoffs. He’s not a goal-scorers, and he’s been in and out of the lineup for us due to injuries, but he’s been awesome in the playoffs. He’s played every playoff game for us, and he’s really stepped up.”
Those goals made Scites’ job much easier. The netminder from Plymouth, Minn., redirected or stopped all 36 shots he saw Friday.
“I kind of struggled a little bit yesterday,” Scites said about Thursday’s 5-3 loss in Helena. “I felt like I had to bounce back.
Obviously, I have to give my team the best chance to win, and you know, they did the same for me.”
“That’s why he’s going to be a good college player,” Sears said, referring to Scites. “He’s real mature, he cleared his head.
“I called him about noon. Out conversation was about 10 seconds long. I asked, ‘How ya feeling?’ He said, ‘I’m good.’ I asked, ‘You ready to rebound?’ He said ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Okay, I’ll see you at the rink.’ Goalies are strange, but he’s a good kid and a hard worker. He just had a sense of comfort tonight.”
The Americans knocked Helena starter Carver Thompson out of the crease in between the second and third stanzas, with Alexander Rogers working the final 20 minutes. Thompson drew the loss, after three of the 26 shots he faced slid past him.
Americans 4, Bighorns 0
Helena 000–0 Great Falls 121–4 First period – 1. GF, Jens Juliussen, :25. Second period – 2. GF, Nick Torres (Ben Rinckney), 7:30. 3. GF, Hendrik Robel (Justin Ohnstad), 11:56.
Third period – 4. GF, Julissen (Rinckney), :38. Shots on goal – HEL, 16-12-8 – 36. GF, 10-16-10 – 36. Power play opportunities – HEL, 0-for-3. GF, 0-for-5. Goalies-saves – HEL, Carver Thompson (L), 23 saves, 26 shots; Alexander Rogers (0:00/third), 9 saves, 10 shots.
Time – 2:17. Att – 1,260.
Story Courtesy: Great Falls Tribune: Winner-take-all Saturday night as American blank Helena in Game 2 (March 22, 2019)