By Kevin Scott
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CODY, Wyo., November 13, 2020 — The Great Falls Americans have been racking up wins left and right to start the 2020-21 North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) season.
Great Falls (9-0-0-0), along with NA3HL’s Central Division leaders, the Rochester (MN) Grizzlies (9-0-0-0), are the only undefeated squads left in the 31-team USA Hockey Tier III junior hockey league before Friday evening’s performance. Since Great Falls resurrected their junior hockey team beginning in the 2011-12 season, Great Falls has only started two other seasons with unblemished records after eight games. During the 2013-14 campaign in the now defunct American West Hockey League (AWHL), they won their first ten consecutive contests before their first setback. The following year (2014-15) in their first year in the NA3HL, they put up a string of 12 straight victories.
The #1 Americans traveled to Cody, Wyoming to face the #6 Yellowstone Quake (3-8-0-0) in just their second road trip of the season this weekend for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday nights.
Great Falls has so far gone 2-0 over the Butte Cobras, Bozeman Ice Dogs, and the Gillette (WY) Wild along with one win apiece against the Missoula Junior Bruins and the Helena Bighorns.
Two of Yellowstone’s three wins came in the month of October where they defeated their rival, the Gillette (WY) Wild 7-5 in their third game of the season (October 9th) to pick up their first victory. A week later (October 16th), they bested the Bozeman Ice Dogs, 6-4 in Bozeman, Montana for their second overall (first road victory). During the first week of November (6-7), they played the Missoula Junior Bruins and went 1-1 against them including a 6-5 overtime victory.
Would Great Falls pick up their ninth victory or would the Quake erupt for their fourth victory?
The #1 Great Falls Americans capitalized on six power plays and easily defeated the #6 Yellowstone (WY) Quake 10-2 during Friday’s NA3HL junior hockey performance inside Wyoming’s Riley Arena. Great Falls broke a 2-2 tie in the first period and exploded for eight more goals over the final two periods behind a four-goal effort by Jake Hayes and 24 saves by goaltender Trever Mellen.
After a 75-minute delay to open the contest due to a power outage in Wyoming, the Great Falls Americans wasted just 54 seconds before lighting up the lamp. It was Henry Chavez’s and Bryson Fletcher’s pass to Harley Nyhuis for the 1-0 advantage for the visiting team. Four minutes later, the Quake evened up the contest while Great Falls was in the penalty box. Joe McCormick and Logan Brown assisted on a power play goal by Austin Lawless, a defenseman from Bay City, Michigan, who scored his first goal for Wyoming. Returning forward Dylan Rumpke broke the tie and gave the host team their first lead (2-1) at the midway point of the first period. Jack Harris and Austin Lawless collected the assists for coach Phil Oberlin’s squad on the short-handed scoring opportunity. Jake Hayes was not going to allow the Quake to lead before the first intermission so his short-handed goal with 1:12 remaining tied the contest at 2-2. Hayes unassisted tally was his fourth of the year. Great Falls missed both of their power play chances and finished the period with 12 shots. Yellowstone scored two goals on nine shots and they successfully connected on one of their four power play chances.
After getting his first goal last week at home against Bozeman, Illinois product Connor Doyle gave the Americans their second lead of the game early in the middle period as Cole Komarek and Alex Jackson set up the third goal for coach Greg Sears’ squad with 15:20 remaining. While Yellowstone was down a man, Great Falls took advantage of their first of their four successful second period power plays that gave them a two-goal lead. The sixth goal by Cole Komarek via a pass from Alex Jackson (ninth assist) came with under ten minutes to go in the stanza. As the clock wound down, the Americans scored three more goals in a two-minute span with the Quake in the penalty box. Tommy Janes added his first score of the season with help from Kellen Harris, who provided his third assist and then Jake Hayes racked up his second goal of the game (fifth overall) and leading assist maker, Alex Jackson created his third assist of the period. The final tally was made by Alaska native Tyler Lorring off the stick of Kellen Harris for his fourth assist as the Americans outscored the Quake 5-0 before the middle period expired. Great Falls doubled the shot attempts (37-18) against the Quake after the first forty minutes of action.
Great Falls’ offense continued their dominance in the final frame. Jake Hayes recorded a hat trick by accruing three goals in three periods. His hat trick came seven minutes into the period with the assist going to Cole Komarek with the top-ranked team in the Frontier Division cruising with a six-goal lead. Nick Silance got into the scoring column by recording his first goal and the Americans ninth of the night. Billings, Montana native Patrick Crooks ended his fifth game with the organization with his first assist. Jake Hayes buried his fourth goal 24 seconds after Nick Silance’s scoring drive for Great Falls’ tenth goal. Hayes’ goal was assisted by Bryson Fletcher and Cole Komarek for the sixth successful power play scoring opportunity of the night.
The visiting team took over 12 shots in each of three periods to end the sixty-minute contest with 54. Yellowstone took nine shots each in the first two periods to end their dismal performance with 26. The difference in the contest was
Great Falls scoring on six of their eight total power play chances with four coming in the second stanza. The Quake went 1-for-7 with Austin Lawless’ first period score being profitable. The teams combined for 19 infractions that resulted in 46 minutes of action spent in the sin bin.
Jake Hayes led the charge for the unbeaten Americans with four goals, Coke Komarek scored once and dished out three assists and Alex Jackson also earned three assists for the comfortable win. Austin Lawless paced the sixth place Quake with a goal and one assist in the loss.
Trever Mellen turned in another all-star like performance as he recorded his ninth win in nine games. After allowing two first period goals, the Minnesota native had another flawless performance for the remainder of the game by registering 24 saves. Yellowstone netminders Connor Carroll and Hudgel Selk struggled throughout. Selk replaced Carroll after the second period and finished with 14 of the 44 saves. Carroll received his third loss in five appearances as Yellowstone suffered their eighth defeat.
NOTE: A power outage in Cody, Wyoming at the Riley Arena delayed the 7:30PM (MST) contest to 8:45PM.
NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls remains in Cody, Wyoming for the second game of their two-game series with the Quake. The showdown, which can be streamed online via HockeyTV, starts at 7:30PM from Yellowstone’s Riley Arena on Saturday, November 14th.
Additional Media Coverage: November 13, 2020: 560AM-KMON: Weekly Radio Interview by KMON’s Randy Bogden with Great Falls Americans Head Coach Greg Sears every Friday morning. Click here to listen to the full interviews.