Great Falls hangs on to defeat Butte 5-3 for sixth road win

By Kevin Scott

Box Score Game Sheet League Scoreboard Americans Team Statistics

BUTTE, Mont., December 1, 2021 — The #4 Great Falls Americans (11-9-2-1) and the #5 Butte Cobras (9-13-2-0) competed against each other for just the fourth time this season in a rare Wednesday affair on the ice.

The Americans are coming off a 3-4 record in the month of November with two home wins at the start of November against the Sheridan (WY) Hawks and a single win last weekend against the Badlands (SD) Sabres. They also lost at the Great Falls Ice Plex twice (Helena Bighorns and Badlands Sabres) and two road losses at the hands of the Gillette (WY) Wild.

Meanwhile, the Butte Cobras, coached by former Great Falls Americans Associate Coach Kirk Golden, also finished off November with a 3-4 record with wins coming against the Badlands Sabres (twice) and the Yellowstone (WY) Quake (once) and losses against the Helena Bighorns (once) and Badlands Sabres (twice).

In the three previous meetings against one another, the Great Falls Americans won two of the three contests. Their season matchup began on October 22nd, where Great Falls built a 4-1 lead after two periods and held Butte scoreless in the third to win by three goals (4-1) in front of the home fans. Hunter Maschke and Jackson Henningsgard each scored once and had one assist. Americans goalie Ben Winkler stopped 35 of the 36 goals (see game story). On October 28th, Great Falls’ Daniel Crutcher scored two goals and one assist and Tae Evans had two goals as the Americans won 6-4. Will Simpson had 20 saves in the net for the Americans. Nick Bradshaw scored three points (2 goals, 1 assist) and netminder Caleb Cross acquired 62 saves in the loss (see game story). Two days later in Butte, the Cobras came out on top by two goals (4-2) with Luke Schleusner scoring both goals for the Cobras and netminder Dale Pfannenstein finishing with 43 saves. Micah Serino scoring both Americans goals, and goaltender Wyatt Olsonawski racked up 42 saves in the first loss of the season against Butte. (see game story).

Great Falls was looking for their third win against their Montana foe on Wednesday night in the Mining City.

The #4 Great Falls Americans came out on top of the #5 Butte Cobras, 5-3 after leading 2-1 after the first period for their eleventh overall victory (and sixth road win) of the season during NA3HL junior hockey action at the Butte Community Ice Center on Wednesday evening. Jackson Henningsgard led the charge for Great Falls by scoring three points (1 goal, two assists) while goaltender Zac Hattan utilized a perfect third period to produce 42 saves.

Great Falls jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Butte scored the final goal of the first period. Jackson Henningsgard answered the first goal for the visiting team by successfully connecting on a shot sent by Micah Serino and Jay Alford five minutes into the stanza. Garrett Weisenburger added his third goal of the season less than two minutes after the score by Henningsgard. Jay Alford added his second assist of the night and Thomas Gazich accumulated his first. Butte cut the deficit into the deficit (2-1) with a tally by South Dakota native Nick Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s 16th goal came via teammates Luke Schleusner (15th assist) and Cade Wessman, who leads the team with 28 assists.

David Hanny, a returning forward from last season’s squad, put in the equalizer for the home team (2-2) early in the middle period. Drysten Bailey and Canadian Caelin Chinery added the assists for the Cobras. Americans forward Silas Hughes helped fourth ranked team in the Frontier Division regain the lead (3-2) with assistance coming from Tyler Sunagel and Henry Fusco with 11:30 remaining. Butte quickly regrouped and evened the contest for the second time (3-3) on a play set up by Luke Schleusner and Ross Biggerstaff to Nick Bradshaw, who recorded his second goal of the night and the seventeenth of the season. With thirteen seconds to go before both teams headed into the locker room for their second break, Jackson Henningsgard and Micah Serino found Tae Evans who lit up the lamp over Butte netminder Caleb Cross for the go-ahead score. Great Falls led in the shots-on-goal category after the first forty minutes, 38-32.

The third frame nearly came and went without either junior hockey team scoring but with two seconds left, Daniel Crutcher, who was named as an Honorable Mention candidate for the Frontier Division Stars of the Week that ended November 28, 2021, and NA3HL Honorable Mention nominee for Forward of the Month for November, netted his ninth score with Micah Serino and Jackson Henningsgard garnering the assists on Great Falls’ fifth and final scoring opportunity. The goal came as Butte pulled their goaltender earlier in favor of adding another offensive player on the attempt to tie the contest.

The Americans had a game-high 24 shots in the middle period and ended the contest with 53 as they came away with their eleventh victory of the season. Butte took 45 shots after registering 17 in the first period.

Just three combined penalties were issued in the fourth head-to-head encounter of the season between these two rivals. Great Falls had two minor penalties while Butte had one major (five-minute) penalty with no infractions called in the third. Neither squad was awarded any power play chances.

The Americans and Cobras will challenge each other again on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Great Falls.

The win in the net goes to Zac Hattan, who won his fourth game of the season (4-2-1-0) in his second season with Great Falls. The Michigan hockey standout allowed all three goals in the first two periods and concluded the night with 42 saves. The 48 saves by Butte’s Caleb Cross was not enough as the Cobras suffered their fourteenth overall loss of the season.

NEXT CONTEST: After a travel day on Thursday (December 2nd), the Americans will travel to Rapid City, South Dakota for their first road games against the newest member of the Frontier Division, the Badlands Sabres on Friday and Saturday, December 3rd, and 4th. Roosevelt Park Ice Arena is the host venue for the weekend series that begins each night at 7:05PM (MST). The NA3HL streaming service, HockeyTV, provides the coverage.

Additional Media Coverage: December 1, 2021: 560AM-KMON: Weekly Radio Interview by KMON’s Randy Bogden with Great Falls Americans Head Coach Greg Sears every Wednesday morning. Click here to listen to the full interviews.