By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., December 10, 2016 — The second-place Great Falls Americans (16-3-2-2) and the sixth-place Helena Bighorns (8-15-1) battled it out for the fourth time on Saturday night. Great Falls has won all three matchups this season including a 3-1 win on Friday night (December 9th) in Helena.
Great Falls was looking for a fourth win against Helena and an eighth straight win when these two rivals met again on the ice. But the Bighorns had other ideas.
Ben Kottmeier scored two goals and Kyle Hayter added the game-winning score in overtime as the Helena Bighorns upset the Great Falls Americans 3-2 during 2J’s Complex Night at the Great Falls Ice Plex. The Helena win stopped the Americans seven game winning streak.
Helena’s goal by Ben Kottmeier five minutes into the first period gave the Bighorns the early lead (1-0). Brendan Bessee and Jarrett Scheibel registered the assists for the only points of the first stanza despite being out-shot by the Americans 24-7. The Americans trailed for the first time since the November 4th home contest against the Gillette Wild where they fell 2-1 in overtime.
Tanner Congdon, 5’11” forward from Anchorage, Alaska, tied the contest up for the Americans early in the middle period with his nineteenth scoring drive of the season. Tegan Harrington came up with his 15th assist at the 15:14 mark. Both defenses never allowed any more goals before the second intermission. Kyler Ayers stopped the four shot attempts by the Bighorns. The host team held a 39-11 advantage after the first forty minutes.
Ben Kottmeier scored his second tally of the night for Helena with 4:38 left in the contest to give the Bighorns their second lead of the night (2-1). Great Falls rallied and scored to tie the game up with 75 seconds left as Tanner Congdon found the back of the net to send the game into a five-minute overtime. Payton McSharry fed Congdon for the game-tying score.
The Bighorns needed just two minutes in overtime to secure their eighth victory of the season. Helena native Kyle Hayter sailed the puck into the net for the game-winning score.
Both teams failed to gather any points during their two power play chances.
Great Falls lost their second overtime game of the season despite taking 43 more shots than Helena (62-19). Helena had no more than seven shots in each period.
The winning goaltender was Nicholas Battaglia who earned 60 saves while giving up two goals. Kyler Ayers, who suffered his first overtime loss of the season (5-0-0-1), had 16 saves.
NOTE: Great Falls recently picked up two players from the Missoula Junior Bruins including forwards Jens Juliussen and Payton McSharry with the Bruins receiving Isaac Vincent, Spencer Vockel and Cameron Cunningham from the Americans.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans and the rest of the North American 3 Hockey League teams will be in Blaine, Minnesota for the three-day NA3HL Showcase Tournament beginning on Friday, December 16 and finishing up on Sunday, December 18th. Great Falls plays the Long Beach Sharks (NY) on Friday at 2:45PM (MST), the Jersey Shore Wildcats (NJ) at 12:00PM (MST) on Saturday and on Sunday, they will face the Peoria Mustangs (IL) at 11:25AM (MST). For more information about the tournament that will feature many college and junior scouts in attendance, please click here.