Late goals help Americans notch their 20th win on New Year’s Eve
By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., December 31, 2016 — The final ten weeks of the 2016-17 NA3HL junior hockey season began last night.
The Great Falls Americans (20-3-2-3) easily defeated the home team (Glacier Nationals) in Havre, Montana by blanking them, 9-0 for their sixth consecutive shutout against the Glacier squad. The Americans opponent for Saturday evening was the Missoula Jr. Bruins (17-11-0-1), who last night fell to the Helena Bighorns, 4-2 in Missoula, Montana.
The Americans have met the Bruins four times entering tonight’s contest with Great Falls picking up three victories. Jeff Heimel’s squad has earned two shutout wins including a 6-0 convincing victory back on November 19th at the Great Falls Ice Plex.
The Great Falls Americans took a 3-0 lead into the second intermission and held on to a 5-2 win over the Missoula Jr. Bruins despite a failed comeback attempt by the visiting team on New Year’s Eve in Great Falls.
The scoreless first period saw seven minor penalties. Great Falls goaltender Nick Nast stopped nine shots while Tanner Loucks from Missoula swatted away 12.
In the middle period, Great Falls collected three goals during an eight-minute scoring span. Anaheim, California native Michael Fary found the back of the net for the Americans first points seven minutes into the period. Adam Vandenbos and Danny O’Donnell were each credited with the assists. O’Donnell currently leads the Americans with 26 assists. Kody Thomas and Mitchell Ramstad helped set up Jens Juliussen’s goal at the 10:56 mark to give the home team a 2-0 lead. Great Falls would get the puck between the pipes one more time before the second intermission when Tanner Congdon’s 24th goal was made off a pass from Tegan Harrington and Sandis Mezharaups.
The Bruins fought back and scored twice in the first three minutes of the third period to cut their deficit to 3-2. Misha Akatnov, a native of Russia, scored on the power play chance during the first 39 seconds while teammate Zachary Colgrove added another score a short time later. Wyatt Mathews assisted on both scoring drives for the Bruins and Austin Azzinnaro had an assist on Missoula’s first points of the contest. Great Falls defenseman Normunds Vibans led the Great Falls offensive attack with his third score of the season with 2:44 left in the game. The Americans first power play score was assisted by Adam Vandenbos and Sandis Mezharaups. Jesse Johnson put the finishing touches on the scoreboard for the Americans with his empty net tally with 10 seconds remaining off the stick of Tegan Harrington.
Great Falls took more shots than Missoula did during the first two periods and the host team out-shot the visiting team, 33-31.
The 858 fans at the Great Falls Ice Plex that took in the action on New Year’s Eve witnessed 17 total infractions accounting for 34 minutes of combined penalty time.
Nick Nast garnered his tenth win in 14 appearances (10-2-0-1-1) for the Americans. Missoula’s Tanner Loucks allowed four goals and finished with 28 saves.
NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls and Missoula will meet up twice more next week. The Bruins will host the Americans on Thursday, January 5th and then the following night (Friday, January 6th), the Americans will entertain the Bruins. As part of the Americans three games in three days’ weekend, the Glacier Nationals will be coming to the Great Falls Ice Plex on Saturday, January 7th. The puck is set to drop for all three nights at 7:30PM (MST).