Photo: Courtesy of Laura Richesin
By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., February 10, 2019 — The Great Falls Americans (34-7-0-1) have been one of the best squads in the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) all season long. The Americans are the top team in the seven-team Frontier Division after trailing the #2 Helena Bighorns for most of the season.
On Sunday afternoon, the Americans hosted the #6 Butte Cobras (4-34-2-0) in Great Falls with the home team winning all six encounters. Great Falls is riding a 12-game winning streak and haven’t suffered a loss since December 18th when they fell to the Northeast (MA) Generals, 5-3 at the NA3HL Showcase Tournament in Minnesota.
On February 2nd, Great Falls bested the Butte Cobras, 5-1 in Butte, Montana. Payton McSharry scored twice and dished out one assist in the victory for the Americans.
The Great Falls Americans offense racked up 101 shots against the Butte Cobras on Sunday afternoon in Great Falls and overcame a slow start to defeat Butte’s junior hockey team, 5-2. George Nuutinen scored two goals and dished out one assist for coach Greg Sears’ top-ranked club.
Nearly three minutes into the contest, Great Falls Americans forward Dylan Olson recorded his ninth goal of the season as the puck from linemates Luke Richesin and Levi Mese sailed through Butte netminder Karl Zodda for the early lead by the home team. Butte answered back with a goal to tie the contest at 1-1 seven minutes later when Butte native Robin Bagley tallied his eighth goal off the stick of Philip Winter. George Nuutinen chipped in the second goal for Great Falls with 5:38 left before the first intermission. Trent Cowden gathered his eleventh assist and Hendrik Robel added his fifteenth assist to give the Americans a slim 2-1 lead after the first twenty minutes of action. Great Falls’ offense kept the puck by Butte’s goal for most of the period and forced 26 shots with Butte managing four attempts.
A total of 41 shots were taken in the middle period but just one goal scored. The Americans 36 shots created only one goal by Garrett Peters, who registered his 12th goal this season. The short-handed scoring drive came fifteen minutes into the second stanza.
Both teams skated hard the first ten minutes of the third period before the Americans secured a successful scoring drive. While Butte was down a man because of a penalty, Dylan Olson’s pass to an open George Nuutinen increased the lead for the host team (4-1). Trent Cowden accumulated his second assist of the contest. The teams traded goals during the rest of the contest. Three minutes later, the Cobras cut into the Americans lead with Robin Bagley’s second goal of the game with assists coming from teammates Tyson Stovin and Philip Winter. Justin Ohnstad put in the final goal with 3:37 remaining to help Great Falls pick up their 16th win at the Great Falls Ice Plex this season as 578 spectators in attendance watched their team gather their 34th victory in 42 games. George Nuutinen and Jack Olson set up the fifth goal.
The Americans offense kept firing away shots and easily crushed the Cobras in shot attempts (101-13).
Only George Nuutinen’s third period score came via a power play with both teams combining for five penalties and ten minutes in the sin bin.
Viktor Wennberg claimed his 16th victory in 18 games by swatting away 11-of-the 13 shots that Butte’s offense sent his way. Wennberg along with Yellowstone’s Michael Allman will be the two goaltenders suiting up for the Frontier Division squad at next week’s 2019 NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament on February 18-19th in Massachusetts. Karl Zodda, a Lehi, Utah native, recorded 96 saves despite his eleventh consecutive loss (1-19-2-0) for Butte.
NEXT CONTEST: The Yellowstone Quake will be in town for a two games next weekend (Feb. 15-16). The action starts each night at 7:30PM from the Great Falls Ice Plex. Great Falls won all four games in back-to-back weekends in September against the Wyoming club.