By Kevin Scott
HELENA, Mont., February 21, 2015 — When the Great Falls Americans (33-9-3) and their rivals from Helena (Bighorns) (31-10-2) square off in Helena for the final time during the 2014-15 season, it will most likely be a hard fought battle if the team standings and goals scored (16-13 goals in seven games with Great Falls in front) are any indication.
Top-ranked Great Falls owned a 4-1-2 record despite three straight losses to their NA3HL counterparts from the capital city before their finale tonight. The previous two defeats were settled in an overtime and a shootout. But since their last loss on February 8th, Great Falls has rattled off three straight wins including a 3-2 road win last night against the Bozeman Ice Dogs. The Bighorns, ranked third in the NA3HL, picked up their 30th win of the season against the Billings Bulls as they came away with a 4-3 overtime home victory on Friday night.
The Helena Bighorns scored once during each period and held Great Falls to just a single goal as they picked up their fifth win in eight tries over the Americans. The Helena Ice Arena was packed with over 1,400 fans in attendance for the Americans final road game of the regular season.
During the opening three minutes of action, the Helena Bighorns took the early 1-0 lead with a goal by defenseman Nick Trefry off the stick of Liam McDonough and Kendall Bolen-Porter. Helena took 13 of their 23 total shots on goal before the end of the first stanza. Great Falls failed to convert on any of the 12 shots against Bighorns goaltender Grant Martens.
Dylan Garton made his 15th goal with 13 minutes remaining during a power play with help from Cody Page and Robert Kalata to tie the contest at one apiece in the middle period. Helena regained the lead (2-1) eight minutes later on a Johnny Bonta score that was set up by Brandt Miller and Kyler Chartier. Great Falls had 11 shots in the period and nine for the home team.
The Helena NA3HL franchise would score once more in the last period. Cody Vanthournout was the third player to score for the Bighorns, who held the Americans scoreless and kept them from getting any shots on goal in the last twenty minutes of play. Daniel Liberko and Jarrett Scheibel received the assists.
Both squads incurred over nine penalties for over 29 minutes in penalty time with Great Falls receiving eight minors and one major penalty.
The Great Falls club’s only successful power play came from Dylan Garton, who netted the only points for the visiting team. Helena could not convert on any of their four power play chances.
Americans goaltender Lauren Massie made 20 saves on 23 shot attempts while Helena’s Grant Martens swatted away 22 shots allowing one goal to get by him.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans will finish out the regular season with two games next weekend at home. On Friday night at 7:30PM, the Glacier Nationals come to town followed by the season finale on Sunday, March 1st when the Billings Bulls invade the Ice Plex for a 4:00PM tilt. But first, seven members of the Americans including head coach Jeff Heimel head to Ann Arbor, Michigan to compete in the two-day NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament on Monday and Tuesday (Feb. 23-24th).
|Period 1||Period 2||Period 3||Final|
First Period – 1, Helena, Nick Trefry (Liam McDonough, Kendall Bolen-Porter), 2:52.
Second Period – 2, Great Falls, Dylan Garton (power play) (Cody Page, Robert Kalata), 6:14. 3, Helena, Johnny Bonta (Brandt Miller, Kyler Chartier), 14:22.
Third Period – 4, Helena, Cody Vanthournout (Daniel Liberko, Jarrett Scheibel), 6:42.
Shots on Goal – Great Falls 23, Helena 23.
Power-play Opportunities – Great Falls 1-for-5, Helena 0-for-4.
Attendance – 1,407