Photo: Courtesy of Laura Richesin
By Kevin Scott
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MISSOULA, Mont., February 28, 2020 — The Great Falls Americans (32-9-4-1) have played the Missoula Junior Bruins (17-28-1-0) five times this season. Four of the five contests (not counting tonight’s showdown) have been on home ice for Great Falls.
The Americans have had five of their 31 victories this season against the Bruins including last Friday’s slim 3-2 win at Missoula’s Glacier Ice Rink. The clash between these two rivals saw just six total penalties in the two-hour junior hockey game. Henry Chavez, Brody Boyce and Blake Nerney each racked up the goals while Matt Maniglia picked up his first win (1-1-0) in three appearances for the Americans in the net.
Depending on the outcome of Saturday’s contests, Great Falls and Missoula could meet up again in next week’s Frontier Divisional Play-In (First-Round) Series. The third-seeded Americans would play host to the Bruins, who are currently in the sixth spot. The first and second seeds (Bozeman Ice Dogs and the Sheridan Hawks) would get the bye into the Frontier Divisional Semi-Finals occurring the following week while the fifth seed and fourth seed would play in the other Play-In Series game.
Great Falls forward Levi Mese scored his 20th goal of the season and the game-winning tally in the third period to help the Great Falls American defeat the Missoula Junior Bruins 1-0 on Friday night at the Glacier Ice Rink in Missoula, Montana.
Both offenses couldn’t find a way to get the puck in the goal during the first two periods despite Great Falls putting up 22 of the 35 shots on goal. A total of seven minor infractions occurred in the second period after a penalty-free opening stanza.
Levi Mese scored the one and only goal for either squad 2:37 in the third frame as Kellen Harris (22 assists) and Logan Rachow (16 assists) set up the eventual game-winning scoring drive while the Bruins were down a man on one of their six penalties of the contest.
Just 16 shots were taken after the second intermission after both squads combined for 35 in the first forty minutes.
Great Falls and Missoula each racked up six minor penalties resulting in 12 minutes of time spent in the penalty box with most of the infractions coming in the middle period. Levi Mese’s score was the only successful power play of the NA3HL matchup as Great Falls went 1-for-4 while the Bruins were denied any goals on their four power play chances.
The 400 spectators at Missoula’s ice rink saw Trever Mellen have a perfect game for Great Falls. The netminder from Minnesota pick up his eleventh win in 20 games (11-3-3-1) in his first season for the Americans. This was his fourth shutout victory of the season as he stopped all 19 shots.
Missoula goaltender Seth Daniel had two perfect periods before Levi Mese lit up the lamp in the third period to deny the Georgia native his eighth win (7-10 record) in his second junior hockey season in Missoula. He had 31 saves on Friday evening. Daniel went 8-2 in his first season in 2018-19 in 15 appearances.
The #3 Great Falls Americans wrap up the 2019-20 season in Butte, Montana on Saturday evening when they take on the last place Cobras (6-39-1-0), who fell to the Helena Bighorns (16-26-2-2), 8-5 on Friday night in Helena. Meanwhile, the #7 Missoula Junior Bruins will host the #6 Helena Bighorns in their season finale on Saturday. Only one-point (36-35) separates Missoula and Helena heading into the final game of the season on Saturday for the sixth and final sport in the 2020 NA3HL Frontier Division Playoffs.
In other action on the second-to-last night of the NA3HL regular season for the Frontier Division, the #1 Bozeman Ice Dogs (38-7-0-1) earned their 38th win of the 2019-20 season by edging the #2 Sheridan (WY) Hawks (35-9-1-1), 4-3 as they gave the home fans in the Haynes Pavilion a scare until the final 15 seconds when Luke McKay scored the game-winning goal for the top team in the Frontier Division. At the Riley Arena, the home team (#4 Yellowstone Quake, 19-24-2-1) got by their Wyoming rivals, the #5 Gillette Wild (19-27-0), 8-5 behind a hat trick (3 goals) by team leader Dylan Rumpke. Goaltender Michael Allman had 58 stops. Both teams will square off in the same arena on Saturday in the finale as three points (41-38) separates them.
Next week, the Frontier Division Play-In (First Round) series begins as the No. 6 seed will play host to the #3 seed and the #4 seed will host the #5 seed. Playoff pairings will be announced after Saturday’s games are completed. It was announced earlier this week that the Great Falls Americans will host Game 1 on Friday, March 6th and if necessary, Game 3 at the Great Falls Ice Plex on Sunday, March 8th.
Please check back on the Great Falls Americans website for dates and times for the upcoming 2020 NA3HL Frontier Division Play-In (First Round) best-of-three series taking place during the first week of March 6-8.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans hockey team will finish off the 2019-20 North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) regular season on the road with a contest against the Butte Cobras on Saturday, February 29th. The action begins on HockeyTV at 7:05PM from the Butte Community Ice Center.