By Kevin Scott
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BLAINE, Minn., December 18, 2016 — The Great Falls Americans (18-3-2-3) have won two straight at the NA3HL Showcase this weekend entering the third and final day of competition at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota.
On Friday afternoon, the Great Falls Americans earned a tough 6-4 decision over the Long Beach (NY) Sharks (24-6-1-1) followed by an impressive 7-3 victory Saturday over the Jersey Shore (NJ) Wildcats (19-14-1-0).
Great Falls’ opponent for Sunday’s contest played both the Sharks and Wildcats at the tournament as well. The Peoria (IL) Mustangs (17-9-3-0) are currently sitting in second place behind the St. Louis Jr. Blues (20-7-0-1) in the NA3HL’s Midwest Division after 29 games. Peoria downed Jersey Shore 6-1 on Friday before falling to the Long Beach Shark 7-3 on Saturday. Great Falls served as the visiting team on the final day.
Braden Stewart (19 goals, 21 assists) and Austin Wisely (17 goals and 21 assists) lead the Illinois squad. The Americans, under the direction of head coach Jeff Heimel, have six players who have racked up over 30 points including Tanner Congdon (21 goals, 18 assists), Danny O’Donnell (14 goals, 25 assists), Brendan Jester (18 goals, 20 assists), Tegan Harrington (16 goals, 18 assists), Matt Janke (12 goals, 21 assists) and newcomer Payton McSharry (15 goals, 16 assists), who came over earlier this month in a trade with the Missoula Jr. Bruins.
The prestigious three-day tournament includes many college and junior scouts that are in attendance to watch the league’s best talent. The three games that each team appears in does count toward their season standings.
The Great Falls Americans comeback attempt fell short in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Illinois-based Peoria Mustangs on the final day of action at the NA3HL Showcase on Sunday afternoon. Brendan Jester and Danny O’Donnell scored the only goals in the third period to force overtime and a shootout.
The first period saw no goals scored despite a combined effort of 14 shots being taken. A slow start by both teams saw just two minor penalties called against the Americans.
Peoria’s Braden Stewart had a hand in both of his team’s successful scoring opportunities during the second period. The forward from East Peoria, Illinois, registered the game’s first tally with four minutes remaining. Thomas Kolaz and Max Olson received the assists. Before the end of the period, the Mustangs increased their lead to 2-0 when Braden Stewart’s pass to Anthony Lacullo lit up the lamp. Peoria doubled up the shots taken after the first two periods, 18-9.
The Americans dug themselves out of a two-goal deficit in the final period of regulation. Brendan Jester and Danny O’Donnell each scored to tie the contest up to force a five-minute overtime. Great Falls did not allow the Mustangs offense to gather any points. Tegan Harrington assisted on Jester’s goal while Jester was credited with the assist on O’Donnell’s score with 1:43 left during a power play opportunity. Great Falls out-shot Peoria in the final twenty minutes, 9-4.
The five-minute overtime ended with neither team scoring so a shootout was necessary to determine a winning team.
Anthony Lacullo and Jack Healy each were successful in the one-on-one shootout against Americans goaltender Nick Nast. Tegan Harrington was the only American to score in the shootout. Payton McSharry and Brendan Jester missed on their opportunities.
The contest saw seven penalties for a total of 22 minutes of penalty time.
Illinois native JT Kossakowski redirected 17 of the 19 shots in the win for Peoria. Nick Nast accumulated 22 saves in 65 minutes in the net.
NOTE: The loss for Great Falls allowed the Gillette Wild (20-5-1-0) to pull ahead of them for second place in the Frontier Division standings. Great Falls won two of three at the tournament while Gillette defeated all three of their opponents.
The Frontier Division teams that picked up victories on Sunday included the Bozeman Ice Dogs and Yellowstone Quake while the Billings Bulls, Glacier Nationals, Missoula Jr. Bruins and Helena Bighorns fell short.
For more information including scores throughout the tournament that featured many college and junior scouts in attendance, please click here.
NEXT CONTEST: The Americans have an 11-day holiday break before entering the final half of their season when they face the Glacier Nationals on Friday, December 30th in Havre, MT (8:00PM) followed by a home contest against the Missoula Jr. Bruins on New Year’s Eve starting at 7:30PM from the Great Falls Ice Plex.