By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., February 20, 2016 — The Great Falls Americans (31-10-2) battled with the Helena Bighorns (21-19-0) for the final time on the ice in the regular season on Saturday night.
Great Falls had claimed six victories and suffered only one defeat this season against the Helena NA3HL club. In the seven matchups, Great Falls has racked up 23 goals and have allowed 12.
With the 3-2 win on Friday night against Helena, the Great Falls Americans have officially clinched a playoff berth in the upcoming playoffs in March.
Great Falls has been leading the Frontier Division in wins this season until recently when the Yellowstone Quake (30-7-3) overtook them for the division lead. Yellowstone remains the only team to officially clinch a playoff spot but Great Falls isn’t that far behind the Cody, Wyoming team and should lock up a spot soon.
Tanner Congdon and Josh Larson each scored a goal and dished out two assists as the Great Falls Americans led 4-1 after two periods and cruised to a 5-1 win over the Helena Bighorns in front of a large crowd of 840 fans at the Great Falls Ice Plex on Saturday night.
Miles Giorgione secured his fourth goal of the season and put the Americans in front 1-0 on a power play score with 45 seconds left on the clock before the first intermission. Brendan Jester and Kyle Johnson came away with the assists. The offensive units for both teams chipped in 15 assists.
The home team took a 3-1 lead midway through the second period. Ricards Bernhards and Josh Larson provided the goals for coach Jeff Heimel’s squad. Assisting on the Bernhards scoring drive was Josh Larson and Tanner Congdon. Congdon acquired his second assist on Larson’s points and Ricards Bernhards picked up his first. Helena’s Tyler Onstott put the first points up for the Bighorns at the 5:03 mark as they trailed 3-1. Johnny Bonta and Jarrett Scheibel gathered the assists for the fifth place Bighorns. Reed Link capitalized on a power play for the Americans with just over two minutes remaining in the second stanza. Brendan Jester and Kyle Johnson each picked up their second assist on the fourth point of the night for the second place Great Falls squad. The Americans held a 32-26 shots-on-goal advantage including 17 in the middle period.
Tanner Congdon netted his 20th of the season during the first 6:19 of the final period of regulation. His goal increased the lead to 5-1 and the Americans defense stopped the Bighorns from finding the back of the net the rest of the game. Larson, a native of Alaska, received his second assist while Arseny Ivanov got one.
Great Falls had six minor penalties and one major totaling 17 minutes in penalty time. Helena had eight minors resulting in 16 minutes.
The Americans offense made the Helena goaltenders work throughout the night by taking 52 shots.
Two of the Americans five goals came via successful power play opportunities while Helena failed to capitalize on their four chances.
Jake Stephan, the Americans goaltender, stopped 31 of the 32 shots in sixty minutes of action. Meanwhile, Helena’s Adam Ranck had 33 saves before being relieved by Grant Martens, who rejected all 14 shots that came his way.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will play host to the Billings Bulls on Friday, February 26th at 7:30PM at the Great Falls Ice Plex in their only game of the week.
Additional Media Coverage: February 21, 2016: Great Falls Tribune: Americans skate past Helena Bighorns