By Kevin Scott
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SHERIDAN, Wyo., October 15, 2021 — Two weeks ago, the #4 Great Falls Americans (4-3-2-1) encountered their toughest competition from the 2020-21 season when they made the trip to Sheridan, Wyoming to face the Sheridan Hawks (1-10-0-0) in the fourth week of the season.
The #8 Hawks, coached by Andy Scheib, has just one win in eleven games and isn’t having the offensive power that they had last season when they finished the regular season with an impressive 39-1-0-0 record (44-3-1-0 after winning five of eight postseason games including a trip to St. Peters, Missouri for the 2021 NA3HL Fraser Cup National Championship Tournament). A dozen players return this season off last year’s squad including forward Dakota Kott and goaltender Thomas Kuriscak. Kott scored two goals and dished out three assists and Kuriscak produced 82 saves in both games against their Montana foes at the beginning of October 2021. After starting the season, 0-4-0-0, the Wyoming club picked up one victory against the Butte Cobras on September 24th where they needed an extra period to win, 4-3 at home. They have since lost six straight contests.
Great Falls kept most of their talent as they have 15 players back from their playoff-bound squad. One of those players for coach Greg Sears’ team is Micah Serino, who is from Barrow, Alaska. The 5’9” forward recorded six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in a pair of 4-2 wins against the Hawks at their arena. The Americans played five of their seven opponents this season (have not played the Butte Cobras or the newest member of the Frontier Division, the Badlands (SD) Sabres yet) and except for the two wins against Sheridan, have only been able to finish on top once against the Yellowstone Quake in a 4-3 overtime win on September 11th in Cody, Wyoming.
Tae Evans, Henry Fusco, and Tyler Sunagel helped the fourth-ranked Great Falls Americans win their fourth game of the season by easily defeating the #8 Sheridan (WY) Hawks, 7-2 during NA3HL junior hockey action from Sheridan’s Whitney Rink in the M&M’s Center on Friday night. Evans, an Alaska native who played on rival Bozeman’s (Ice Dogs) squad last season, scored four points (2 goals, 2 assists) while Fusco and Sunagel scored once and had two assists for coach Greg Sears’ road warriors.
Jay Alford’s goal two minutes into the opening stanza was the only score by either team during the first twenty minutes. Alford’s second goal came off the sticks of Tyler Sunagel and Jackson Henningsgard. Sunagel and Henningsgard each acquired their fourth assists of the season. Each team had one minor penalty. Sheridan had no success on their lone power play chance of the period. The shot attempts were close with Great Falls taking 12 of the 21 before the first intermission.
Great Falls came out of the first intermission by scoring twice in the first nine minutes. Tae Evans had back-to-back goals while Henry Fusco and Thomas Dalsin each assisted on both scoring plays to put the Americans out in front 3-0. Dalsin, a defenseman from Shakopee, Minnesota, was named as one of eight Frontier Division Honorable Mention Stars of the Week in the NA3HL for his play last week against the Helena Bighorns on the road. The Sheridan Hawks needed 32 minutes of ice time before they were able to put the puck in the net. McCaffrey Billings of Sheridan and Iowa native Nick Tigges each assisted on Teejay Torgrimson’s third goal to cut into the deficit (3-1). As time winded down, Great Falls was able to enjoy a three-goal advantage as both teams went into the locker room thanks to Tyler Sunagel’s power play scoring drive set up by Noel Rahn and last week’s Frontier Division Star of the Week, Thomas Gazich. Rahn’s fourth assist and Gazich’s seventh assist came with 23 seconds remaining. Except for two minor infractions called on Sheridan, the period didn’t have many stoppages of play. Great Falls outshot Sheridan 22-12 in the period and held a 34-21 advantage after two periods.
The Americans racked up three straight goals in the third frame while allowing one goal for the host team. A trio of players who saw action from the 2020-21 season (Jackson Henningsgard, Hunter Maschke, and Henry Fusco) all saw the lamp light up. Tae Evans provided two assists with Micah Serino, Garrett Weisenburger, and Aaron Leaf provided the assists. Tyler Sunagel provided the second of his two assists. Great Falls had a 7-1 lead until the Hawks scored during the final 11 seconds to close out the game. Dakota Kott and Teejay Torgrimson assisted on the Makhai Sparks score.
Despite the score, the shots-on-goal were close as Great Falls finished with 43 and Sheridan had 38 including 17 in the third.
Six of the ten total penalties came after the second intermission with 31 minutes spent in the sin bin. Sunagel’s and Henningsgard’s scores came during the power play for Great Falls. The Hawks could not convert their four attempts.
Will Simpson continued his stellar performance in the net for the visiting team by swatting away 36 of the 38 shots he faced. The first-year goaltender won for the second time this season (2-2-0-1). The Hawks used both starter Bo Buckley and Tommy Kariscak as netminders as they combined for 36 saves in the loss.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls American fans will have plenty of time to see their team play over the next several weeks. Great Falls will be home for seven of their next eight games including two games against the Sheridan Hawks and Butte Cobras, and a single game with the Helena Bighorns and Bozeman Ice Dogs. First up, the Americans will finish out their 11-game road trip with the Hawks on Saturday, October 16th. The 7:30PM contest can be seen on HockeyTV.
After six consecutive weeks playing away from the Great Falls Ice Plex due to some rink repairs that have been made (see story), the #4 Great Falls Americans will play host to the #6 Butte Cobras next week. Game time is set for 7:30PM (MST) from the Great Falls Ice Plex on Friday, October 22nd. Megan Lewis will return to call all the action on HockeyTV.