Photo: Courtesy of Great Falls Americans
By Kevin Scott
GREAT FALLS, Mont., March 13, 2020 — The 2019-20 Great Falls Americans junior hockey season has come to an end prematurely.
On March 13th, the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) and their 34 teams including the Great Falls Americans have announced that their current 2019-20 season including the 2020 Fraser Cup Playoffs and Championship, have been cancelled due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and pandemic that has been exposed in the United States.
When the cancellation of the season occurred, the NA3HL was entering the Divisional Semi-Final round of the 2020 Fraser Cup Playoffs.
“Today is truly a sad day for all of us, and we share the disappointment that all of our players, teams, parents, and fans are experiencing at the moment. We have some incredible players and teams in the NA3HL that are doing some great things on and off the ice. However, the safety of our hockey community is our top priority and the decision to cancel the remainder of the season was necessary and in the best interest of everyone involved,” said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld.
The Americans finished the regular season in third place behind the Bozeman Ice Dogs (39-7-0-1) and the Sheridan (WY) Hawks (35-11-1-1) during the regular season. Great Falls’ regular season record was 33-9-4-1 with 18-2-3 record at the Great Falls Ice Plex and 15-7-1-1 on the road. Great Falls won the Play-In Series (First Round) against the #6 Helena Bighorns (17-28-2-2) in two games in the best-of-three series. The #3 Americans advanced to the NA3HL Frontier Division Semi-Finals and won the first game of their three-game series against the #3 Sheridan (WY) Hawks, 4-2 at home before play was eventually postponed and cancelled due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) virus and outbreak. Great Falls won both home playoff games and won one on the road before the season concluded due to the virus.
“As each year comes to an end, obviously we were not ready for an ending like this. Our Americans were cruising. We won nine straight (games) and were already playing in the second round of the playoffs with a game one win over Sheridan,” said Americans Head Coach and General Manager, Greg Sears. “We finished the season with a 36-9-5 record and feeling of what if. This team was playing really good hockey at the right time of the season.”
“We are heartbroken that we can’t finish this story. We wish our age out players the best of luck in their future and we will keep Americans fans posted on upcoming college commitments and other accomplishments. Today we got to be on the ice together one last time. We are thankful for that opportunity,” said Sears.
The team found out their season was over after they had a team scrimmage at the Great Falls Ice Plex on Friday, March 13, 2020. The veterans took the 13-6 victory over the rookies.
The Great Falls Americans (36-9-4-1) want to take this time to thank our very talented players that we have loved watching all year long, all of the coaching staff from Owner Jim Keough to Americans General Manager/Head Coach Greg Sears to the game night staff that helped make the season successful at the Great Falls Ice Plex. We also would like to thank all our sponsors (click here for the full list), families, and billet (host) families for the 2019-20 season. Last, but not least, we want to thank all the fans who supported and came out to watch the Americans in action. Great Falls ended up leading the Frontier Division in attendance again (view the list) this year.
A special thanks to Laura Richesin and Tyson Tracy for taking and sharing the action photos of the games they attended this season. It was much appreciated.
Thanks also to the local media outlets including the Great Falls Tribune, ABC/FOX Montana (KFBB), KTVH (NBC in Helena) and KRTV for the great hockey coverage during the season. Hope to see you for the 2020-21 season in the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL). Thank You!!!
The NA3HL will announce its 2019-20 season awards in the coming weeks. The 2020 NA3HL Draft will take place online at na3hl.com on Thursday, April 23rd at 3:00PM (CST) and can also be seen live on HockeyTV. The Americans also won some season awards as well (see the press release when available).
In light of the announcement, it is important to know that the NA3HL remains committed to providing opportunities to its players. Plans are already in place in the event that conditions have improved to present new and additional exposure and development events for players in the NA3HL.
Additional Media Coverage: March 13, 2020: ABC/FOX Montana (KFBB): GF Americans season cancelled due to Coronavirus