By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., December 4, 2015 — The Great Falls Americans took a 2-1 lead in the opening period and held the visiting Helena Bighorns scoreless over the final two periods to pick up a 5-1 decision during 2J’s Complex and McDonald’s ‘We Win, You Win’ Night at the Great Falls Ice Plex on Friday night. The home team scored the final three goals in the last four minutes of regulation. Since the Americans were victorious, the 665 fans in attendance received FREE coupons good for Big Macs at participating McDonald’s in Great Falls.
Prior to Friday’s game, Great Falls (17-6) was 2-1 this season against the Bighorns (12-8). All three games were determined by a one point difference and the identical score of 3-2. The Americans won both games at the Great Falls Ice Plex.
Great Falls found themselves down by a goal after the first three minutes of action. Jay Forbes and Ryan Daugherty got the puck to an open Wyatt Stotts during a power play for the first goal of the game. The Americans would not be denied and found a way to get back in the game with a pair of goals. Tanner Congdon scored twice to give the Americans a 2-1 lead before the first period ended. Josh Larson added assists on both scoring drives and Wade Wylie chipped in one. Congdon and Larson are both natives of Anchorage, Alaska. Despite being down a point, Helena held a 14-12 advantage in the shots-on-goal category.
Both teams played with high intensity but no points were awarded during the middle period between these two rivals. Helena out-shot the host team 16-13 and maintained a five-shot lead (30-25) after forty minutes of game time.
The first fifteen minutes of the final period was quiet until the Americans took advantage of some mistakes by the Bighorns and netted three goals in the final four minutes. Josh Larson, Mitchell Ramstad and Americans leading scorer Brendan Jester each tallied goals. Ramstad and Jester’s goals happened eight seconds apart. Jester currently leads the team with 13 goals. The four Americans who assisted on the three goals included Tanner Congdon, Ricards Bernhards, Connor Barta and Reed Link.
After incurring just one penalty in the first period, the Americans finished with four more penalties in the second and third periods accounting for 10 total minutes. Helena ended their night with six mino penalties for 12 minutes.
Both teams capitalized on just one of their power play chances on the evening. Wyatt Stott’s gave Helena their first and only goal of the night off a power play with 2:55 into the first period. Tanner Congdon’s goal midway through the same period was done via a power play.
Coach Jeff Heimel’s squad was led by Tanner Congdon and Josh Larson. Congdon added both of his goals in the first and chipped in one assist in the third while Josh Larson assisted on both of Congdon’s goals and netted the first of three goals by the Americans in the last stanza.
Meanwhile, the only Bighorns points came during the first period by Wyatt Stotts with assistance from Ryan Daugherty and Jay Forbes.
Jake Stephan was near perfection during this NA3HL game allowing only one goal while stopping 45 shot attempts created by the Bighorns offense. Helena utilized both goalies with Grant Martens getting the loss. He finished with 30 saves while playing just over 56 minutes. Adam Ranck stopped both shots he faced in the final minutes.
NEXT CONTEST: The Glacier Nationals come to town on Friday, December 11th for a 7:30PM matchup against the Americans. Great Falls will then head to Blaine, Minnesota for the 2015 NA3HL Showcase Tournament from December 17-19th with many college scouts in attendance. Click here for tournament information.
Additional Media Coverage: December 3, 2015: Great Falls Tribune: Americans play host to ‘bitter’ rival Friday night
Additional Media Coverage: December 4, 2015: Great Falls Tribune: Americans notch big win over rival Helena