By Kevin Scott
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GILLETTE, Wyo., January 2, 2016 — On New Year’s Day on Friday night, the Great Falls Americans (20-7-2) offense used the third period to score the majority of their points against the host team, the Gillette Wild (15-12).
After a slow start by both NA3HL squads, Great Falls scored five of their six goals in the final period of regulation to help them pick up their 20th win of the season. Great Falls defeated Gillette 6-1 and have now won four of their five season matchups this season.
The Gillette Wild came back from yesterday’s disappointing loss to top the Great Falls Americans 4-2. The home team scored twice in the first and second periods to hold on for the victory in front of a great crowd of 560 spectators at the Spirit Hall Ice Arena on Saturday night. The Americans lost for just the seventh time in 29 games.
Gillette’s NA3HL franchise took a 2-1 lead before the first intermission. Gillette scored the first goal six minutes into the opening period as Brett Kramer found an open Michael Doyle for the goal. Great Falls then bounced back to tie the contest at 1-1 as team assist leader Tanner Congdon dished off to Ricards Bernhards a minute later. Nick Scherbinin scored before the end of the period thanks to assists from Alex King and Cade Boreing. Each team took eight shots-on-goal and neither team was able to capitalize on their one power play.
Both second period goals were scored by the host team during the first four minutes. Kyle Traux and Preston Fuller each found the back of the net for the Wild. Gennadi Zabeline assisted on each of the middle period scoring drives. Alex King also assisted on the power play score by Fuller to give the Wyoming squad a 4-1 lead after two periods of action. The Wild out-shot the Americans 16-15 during the penalty-filled period that saw seven Great Falls penalties including one major.
Malachi Bushey, a native of Tucson, Arizona, pulled Great Falls to within two (2-4) with his goal at the 17:20 mark of the third stanza but that would be as close as the visiting team would get. Blake Miller and Austin Krantz each assisted.
Great Falls received points from Ricards Bernhards and Malachi Bushey, who each had one goal apiece while Tanner Congdon, Blake Miller and Austin Krantz chipped in the assists for coach Jeff Heimel’s squad. Four different standouts for Gillette scored including Michael Doyle, Alex King, Kyle Traux and Preston Fuller. Gennadi Zabeline recorded two assists while Brett Kramer, Cade Boreing, and Alex King each had one.
Great Falls totaled 31 minutes of penalty time and eight minors and went 0-for-3 on the power play. The Wild incurred seven minor penalties for 14 minutes and they finished 1-for-4.
Great Falls had trouble getting the puck into the net as Gillette performed well on the defensive side. A night after having 30 saves, the Great Falls netminder Jake Stephan finished with 27. Alex Feese of Gillette rejected 20 shots in the win.
NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls returns home for the first time since December 11th when they face the Helena Bighorns on Friday, January 8th with action starting at 7:30PM from the Great Falls Ice Plex. The following night (Jan. 9th), they will travel to Havre, Montana for a road matchup with the Glacier Nationals.