By Kevin Scott
|Box Score||Game Sheet||League Scoreboard||Americans Team Statistics|
GREAT FALLS, Mont., January 8, 2016 — The Great Falls Americans (21-7-2) have fared pretty well against the Helena Bighorns (18-11) in their four previous games during the 2015-16 season.
With the exception of one game, their first three matchups were decided by one point (each game’s final score was 3-2). Great Falls was victorious in three of the four. Great Falls bested Helena in both of their games at the Great Falls Ice Plex including a 5-1 win back on December 4th.
The Americans, under the direction of head coach Jeff Heimel, have been on the road for nearly a month after last playing at the Ice Plex on December 11th by shutting out Glacier 10-0. Great Falls has won 11 of their 15 home games so far this season and finished the month of December with a 4-1-2 mark.
Despite a penalty-filled contest, the Great Falls Americans turned four of their power plays into goals and defeated their rival, the Helena Bighorns 5-1 in front of a very large crowd of 1,040 spectators on Friday night at the Great Falls Ice Plex.
Ricards Bernhards scored the game’s first points on a power play with 8:48 left in the opening period over Helena goaltender Grant Martens. Alaska native Tyler Garcia and Great Falls native Blake Miller each picked up an assist to give the home team the early lead (1-0). Before the end of the first stanza, Wade Wylie found an open Reed Link to put the Americans ahead by two goals for Great Falls’ second successful power play opportunity in the first twenty minutes of action. The Americans went 2-for-5 while the Bighorns failed to connect on both of their chances (0-2).
The Americans increased the lead to 3-0 thanks to a power play goal by Wade Wylie, who got the puck by the Bighorns goaltender for the score eleven minutes into the middle period. Reed Link and Tanner Congdon came away with the assists. Great Falls out-shot the Helena NA3HL franchise 23-11 in the period and held a 38-22 advantage after the first two periods were completed.
It took eleven minutes into the final period for either team to get points on the scoreboard. Great Falls scored first as Ricards Bernhards gathered his second goal of the evening off the sticks of Arseny Ivanov and Josh Larson. Helena made the score 4-1 a few moments later. Minnesota native Cody Vanthournout prevented the shutout with twelve minutes remaining. Jack Dolan and Kyle Hayter gathered the assists for the visiting team. Tegan Harrington chipped in the fifth goal for the host team 93 seconds after the Bighorns scored with Tyler Garcia getting his second assist and Adam Apangalook added his first.
The Americans were led by four standouts including Ricards Bernhards finishing with two goals including one goal in the first period off a power play. Reed Link and Wade Wylie each contributed one goal and dished out one assist. Tyler Garcia had two assists. Helena’s Cody Vanthournout had the only goal for the Bighorns.
Great Falls scored four out of their five goals by taking advantage of the power play and ended the night going for 4-for-12 while Helena tried but could not convert any of their ten chances. Both teams combined for 26 infractions totaling 96 minutes of penalty time.
Jake Stephan earned his tenth win of the year (10-3-1) in 15 appearances. The Wisconsin native tallied 36 saves and a season total of 409. Helena used both goaltenders with Grant Martens suffering the loss and ending his night with 45 saves. Adam Ranck played the final 5:49 for the Bighorns.
NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls will travel to Havre, Montana for a road matchup with the Glacier Nationals on Saturday, January 9, 2016. The Americans will then return home for three straight home games with the Bozeman Ice Dogs on Friday, January 15th and two games against the Gillette Wild on Saturday and Sunday, January 16-17th.
Additional Media Coverage: January 8, 2016: Great Falls Tribune: Junior A Hockey: Americans skate past Helena