Great Falls easily defeats Billings, 7-3
By Kevin Scott
GREAT FALLS, Mont., February 4, 2016 — The Great Falls Americans (27-10-2) have come out on the victory side in all four previous encounters this season against the struggling Billings Bulls (8-24-4).
The Americans offense racked up 19 goals and have allowed Billings to score just five total goals including a 7-2 win on October 16th. Great Falls will face Billings three more times in the next month including two on the road.
Tyler Garcia scored twice while Connor Barta and Wade Wylie gathered two assists apiece to lead the Frontier Division leading Great Falls Americans to a 7-3 victory over the Billings Bulls during Thursday night NA3HL action at the Great Falls Ice Plex.
Ricards Bernhards, a forward from Jelgava, Latvia, put the Americans ahead 1-0 after the first period. Wade Wylie and Reed Link tallied the assists on the goal scored with under six minutes remaining. Great Falls had many chances to score but only connected on the one by Bernhards. The home team took 12 of the 13 total shots in the opening stanza.
Billings forward Edward Hoppmann scored off the stick of Mason Graves to even the contest (1-1) during the first two minutes of the middle period. Great Falls broke the tie six minutes after Billings tied it. Great Falls native Connor Barta and Alaska native Hayden Moistner set up the play for Mitchell Ramstad. The Americans added to their lead a few minutes later as Connor Barta added his second assist of the night when he found an open Kyle Johnson for the Americans third goal. Johnson, who was picked up by Great Falls last week, had his first goal as a member of the Americans. Tyler Garcia got the puck between the pipes and increased the lead for the Americans to 4-1 with 3:44 left in the period. The Bulls cut the deficit to 4-2 before the end the period. Roy Aharonovich got the puck by Americans goaltender Jake Stephan with 15 seconds to go before the second intermission. Jeremy Vandekerkhove and Dillon Steh gathered the assists for Billings. The Americans scored three goals on 22 shots and allowed eight by the Billings offense after forty minutes of action.
During the final period, Great Falls accumulated three of the four total goals scored. The Americans raced out to a 7-2 advantage during the first seven minutes. Austin Krantz, Malachi Bushey and Tyler Garcia all saw the puck go through the net. Five Americans came away with assists including Kyle Johnson, Tyler Garcia, Tanner Congdon, Ricards Bernhards and Blake Miller. The Bulls scored once more before the horn sounded. Chris Nicolai picked up his first goal of the game with help from Wolfgang Davis and Mason Graves, who garnered his second assist for the visiting team.
In addition to Tyler Garcia’s two goals and two assists by Connor Barta and Wade Wylie, Malachi Bushey, Ricards Bernhards and newcomer Kyle Johnson registered one goal and one assist against the Bulls. Mason Graves dished out two assists for the Billings hockey team.
The only successful power play for either team was made by Tyler Garcia in the third period. Great Falls went 1-for-4 while Billings couldn’t take advantage of their two power play chances.
The Americans racked up 56 shots including 44 in the last two periods of play while holding the Bulls to 13.
The home team committed just three minor penalties for six minutes while Billings incurred 10 minutes with five minors.
Great Falls net minder Jake Stephan, who was selected to play for the Frontier team in the upcoming Top Prospects Tournament in two weeks, swatted away 10 of the 13 shots that came his way. Brandon Brown picked up the loss for Billings as he allowed all seven goals by the Americans and finished with 39 saves. Gage Overby, the backup goalie, made 10 saves in 13 minutes.
NEXT CONTEST: The Americans will have a two-game road trip next week with the first stop being in Billings on Friday, February 12th to face the Bulls at 7:30PM at the Centennial Ice Arena. The following night (Saturday), they will be in Helena, Montana to challenge the Bighorns with the puck set to drop at 7:00PM.
Additional Media Coverage: February 4, 2016: ABC/FOX Montana: Americans topple Billings in Thursday Night Clash Watch Video