Photo: Courtesy of Laura Richesin
By Kevin Scott
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GREAT FALLS, Mont., November 1, 2019 — When the Great Falls Americans (11-2-1-0) opened the 2019-20 North American 3 Hockey League season on September 13-14th in Great Falls against the Gillette (WY) Wild (10-4-0-0), they had high expectations about coming away with a pair of wins. Great Falls went 1-1 on the weekend.
This past week, Great Falls jumped up a spot to claim the second place over the Gillette Wild, who moved down to third in the eight-team Frontier Division. Great Falls is on a four-game winning streak going back to October 19th with two shutouts over the Yellowstone Quake followed by single game wins against the Butte Cobras and Missoula Jr. Bruins. Meanwhile, the Gillette Wild fell in two games last weekend to new rival, the Sheridan Hawks and were outscored 17-2 in their two-game series.
Jack Olson and Jake Hayes continue to lead the Americans on offense. Olson, the returning forward from White Bear Lake, Minnesota has accumulated 23 points (3 goals, 20 assists). Alaska native Jake Hayes is currently the scoring leader for coach Greg Sears’ squad after 13 games with 12 goals and is the only Americans player with more than nine goals. The Gillette Wild, under the direction of head coach, Steve Kruk, are led by Minnesota duo Declan Young (16 goals, 11 assists, 27 pts.) and Ethan Becker with 18 assists.
The Americans hope to add two more wins to their Frontier standings this weekend.
The Great Falls Americans continued their winning ways by posting a 4-1 victory over the Gillette (WY) Wild on Friday night in Great Falls. Great Falls’ winning streak is now at five and they have won two of three against the Wyoming NA3HL franchise. The 813 fans received FREE coupons with their eighth home win for Big Macs at McDonald’s as part of the “We Win, You Win” promotional night with the fast food franchise.
The Great Falls Americans took a 2-1 advantage before the first intermission, but it wasn’t easily done as both defenses came to play. Eight minutes into the contest, the visiting Wild put the puck between the pipes for the early lead. Declan Young, ranked as the No. 12 leader in points scored in the NA3HL with 16 goals, put his team in front as Wyoming standout Keedin Denny provided his sixth assist. Michigan product Tyler Kaminski collected his tenth assist. The Americans wouldn’t be denied the first period shutout. Hendrik Robel, a returning defenseman from the 2018-19 squad, secured his sixth goal on the scoring drive on the power play with 3:01 remaining. Jake Hayes tallied the first of his three assists on the night while Brody Boyce chipped in his eleventh of the season. The Americans wasted no time, 33 seconds to be exact, before lighting up the lamp for the second time to gain their first lead of the contest heading into the locker room. Jake Hayes and Kellen Harris set up Brody Boyce for the quick score over Gillette goaltender Shane Phillips. Each squad committed two first period penalties with one major by Wyoming. A total of 16 shots were taken as both teams came prepared to play.
Great Falls produced their third score of the game five minutes into the second period. Bryson Fletcher, one of six players on coach Greg Sears’ squad from California, connected on a shot from Jake Hayes and Jack Olson for the score. Both offenses attempted many shots during the final 15 minutes but came up empty. Great Falls led Gillette 17-14 in the shots-on-goal category in the second frame.
The home team’s lead increased to 4-1 after Justin Ohnstad’s slapshot went through Gillette netminder Shane Phillips thanks to assistance from Jack Olson and Bryson Fletcher 13 minutes into the final period of regulation. Ohnstad’s scoring drive proved to be the final scoring drive for either team. Olson leads the team in assists with 20 and that currently puts him fifth in the NA3HL.
Great Falls registered 32 of the 39 shots after the first intermission. Gillette had a team-high 14 shots in the middle period to finish with 32.
The two Frontier Division squads obtained 11 penalties with 44 minutes spent in the penalty box. Great Falls converted two of their five power plays for scores. Gillette couldn’t find a way to find the back of the net in their four chances while Great Falls was in the sin bin.
Viktor Wennberg got his ninth start for Great Falls and improved his record to 8-1. He played a flawless game after the first period when he allowed one goal by Gillette’s Declan Young to get by him. Wennberg stopped 31 of 32 shots. Shane Phillips of Klamath Falls, Oregon, playing in his second year in Gillette, fell to 5-2 on the season. Phillips accrued 35 saves in nearly 59 minutes of action for the Wild.
NOTE: The loss by the Gillette Wild dropped them to fourth in the Frontier Division standings. The Sheridan (WY) Hawks moved up to third with their 12-4 convincing home victory on Friday against the Helena Bighorns.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans wrap up their two-game home series with the Gillette (WY) Wild on Saturday, November 2nd. HockeyTV will provide the FREE streaming coverage of the 7:30PM showdown between these two superior teams as part of the NA3HL’s “Game of the Week”. Fans can log on with their account at HockeyTV or create a new account to view the FREE NA3HL Frontier Division Game of the Week. Jeremy Williamson, the “Voice of the Americans,” will be on the call. Tune in at 7:15PM for the Pre-Game Show.
Additional Media Coverage: November 1, 2019: ABC/FOX Montana (KFBB): Highlights of the Americans 4-1 victory over Gillette 11-01-19