NOTE: A Special Thanks to Megan Lewis (HockeyTV Play-By-Play and “Voice of the Americans”) for providing the photo.
By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., November 5, 2021 — It is the #3 Great Falls Americans against the #8 Sheridan (WY) Hawks this weekend!
If this were last year’s matchup between these two elite junior hockey clubs, it would look a lot different, at least, (record-wise) on paper.
Even though, Sheridan returns eleven players from their championship 2020-21 season, there record is not the same. Last season, the Hawks went 39-1-0-0 in the regular season and finished with a 44-3-1 record after a trip to the 2021 NA3HL Fraser Cup (National) Tournament in St. Peters, Missouri. This season, the Hawks have won just two games out of their 16 contests.
Great Falls brought back fifteen from last year and finished the season with a 27-11-2 record and went 3-2-1 in the Frontier Divisional Playoffs (Semi-Finals/Finals) for an overall record of 30-13-3-0. The Americans and Hawks met in the Frontier Divisional Finals a year ago (after they each won their matchup in the Frontier Divisional Semi-Finals. The Americans went three games to dismiss the Gillette (WY) Wild, who this year are on top of the Frontier Division standings and the Hawks needed two games in their best-of-three series to send the now-defunct Missoula Jr. Bruins home for good.
This year, the squads are quite different. The Americans are sitting in the #3 spot in the Frontier Division (8-5-2-1) after 16 games and the Hawks are just 2-15-0-0 and in last place in the NA3HL’s Frontier Division. The Wyoming team’s two wins came at the hands of the #5 Butte Cobras (5-10-2-0) on September 24th at home and they also defeated their in-state rivals, the #7 Yellowstone Quake (4-9-2-0), based out of Cody, WY 2-1 in overtime on October 29th.
Great Falls has won all four previous meetings on the road against the Hawks and limited the Hawks offense to no more than three goals. They outscored them 25-9 so far this season including a 10-3 convincing win in their last head-to-head contest on October 16th.
After starting their season with a 1-1-2-1 record in September and a 6-4-0-0 record in October, the Americans are looking to right the ship and begin a winning streak after losses this past weekend to Bozeman (Ice Dogs) and Butte (Cobras).
Great Falls Americans starting goaltender Zac Hattan was flawless in the net for Great Falls as he redirected all nineteen shots he faced by Sheridan’s offense as the home team received their first shutout of the season by winning their eighth game, 5-0 during NA3HL junior hockey action from the Great Falls Ice Plex on Friday evening. Forward Henry Fusco assisted on two scoring opportunities and Jackson Henningsgard and Silas Hughes each recorded one goal and one save for coach Greg Sears’ squad.
The Americans scored the one and only goal of the first twenty minutes of action. Jackson Henningsgard, who calls Amery, Wisconsin home, collected his sixth goal in 16 games on a pass from Tyler Sunagel and Noel Rahn. Rahn and Sunagel, who each racked up their tenth assists of the season, came with 10:39 remaining on the first (and only) power play score of the night. Great Falls had a 19-8 advantage on shots before the first intermission.
The #3 team in the Frontier Division added two more goals in the middle period. Forward Garrett Weisenburger and Micah Serino chipped in the goals with the assists going to Henry Fusco (two assists), Daniel Crutcher, and Silas Hughes. Weisenburger’s tally over Sheridan netminder Bo Buckley came with 8:34 remaining while Serino’s came with under one minute left in the stanza. The Americans produced 19 more shots before the period expired. Sheridan took 14 shots after the first forty minutes (six in the second).
The Americans 3-0 lead would expand to 5-0 in the final frame as Apple Valley, Minnesota native Petr Van Voorhis scored his first goal in his first season with the Americans 6:39 into the third. Hunter Maschke and Tae Evans garnered the assists on the Americans fourth goal. Jay Alford’s pass for his first assist of the night (sixth overall) to Silas Hughes for the open goal put the finishing touches on the game for the host team. Jackson Henningsgard also assisted on the third period score after scoring the first tally of the night in the first period.
Sheridan’s offense sputtered throughout the night and took just 19 shots in 60 minutes. Great Falls had 38 shots after two periods and ended their fourth home contest of the season with 53.
The NA3HL officials called seven total penalties with five of them coming before the second intermission. Five of the seven minor penalties were called on the visitors from Wyoming. The Americans scored one of their five goals while the opposing team was in the penalty box (The Americans went 1-for-3 on the power play).
Zac Hattan played a perfect game and was the top player on the ice for the Montana team. The Michigan goalie stopped all 19 shots as he earned the first shutout of the year for the Americans. Hattan’s record is now 2-0-1-0 in four games of action. Bo Buckley’s 48 saves were not enough as he suffered the loss for the Hawks.
NOTES: With the Bozeman Ice Dog’s 5-3 home loss to the Gillette (WY) Wild on Friday (box score), Great Falls and Bozeman swapped spots in the Frontier Division standings. #3 Great Falls has an 8-5-2-1 record (19 points) while the Ice Dogs (8-5-2-0) have 18 points. For a look at the rest of the league standings, please click here.
NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls hosts Sheridan for their second game of November on Saturday, November 6th with a start time of 7:30PM (MST) from the Great Falls Ice Plex. The Americans will also be home for their Sunday, November 14th contest against their rival and closest competitor, the Helena Bighorns for a special time of 1:00PM (MST). The game was originally scheduled for Friday, November 12th but due to a scheduling conflict at the Great Falls Ice Plex, the game was moved to Sunday. Games can be seen on HockeyTV throughout the season.
Additional Media Coverage: November 3, 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.