By Kevin Scott
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ROMEOVILLE, IL., March 30, 2016 — The Great Falls Americans earned a trip to the 2016 NA3HL Silver Cup Championship Tournament (March 30 – April 3) in Romeoville, Illinois last Saturday night in Cody, Wyoming with a 5-4 victory in Game 2 against the Yellowstone Quake.
Great Falls, under the direction of fourth-year head coach Jeff Heimel, finished in second place in the regular season to the Yellowstone (Cody, WY) Quake but rebounded and after defeating the Bozeman Ice Dogs in two games in the Frontier Divisional Semi-Finals faced the Yellowstone Quake for the championship last week. After struggling all season against the Wyoming club, they defeating them twice in the best-of-three series for the automatic berth to the Silver Cup Tournament. Currently, the Americans are 39-11-2 including 20 wins at home inside the Great Falls Ice Plex.
The tournament features six divisional winners along with two Silver Cup Wildcard entries in a round robin format with two pools. Each team is guaranteed to play one game each day during the first three days. The fourth day will have the two best teams in each pool meet up in the semifinals with those two winners going to the championship game on Sunday afternoon.
- Pool A: #1 North Iowa Bulls, #4 Point Mallard (AL) Ducks, #5 Great Falls Americans, 2nd Wild Card: Yellowstone (WY) Quake
- Pool B: #2 Metro (MI) Jets, #3 St. Louis (MO) Jr. Blues, #6 Twin City (MN) Steel, 1st Wild Card: Texas Jr. Brahmas
This is the Americans second consecutive appearance in the prestigious tournament as they conclude their second season in the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL). The fifth-seeded Great Falls squad faced the #4 Point Mallard Ducks on Wednesday night during the first day of competition.
The Frontier Division champions are led in scoring by forward Ricards Bernhards. The native of Jelgava, Latvia has scored 30 goals so far this season. Tanner Congdon, a forward from Anchorage, Alaska, dished out 46 assists.
The Ducks (39-11-3), located out of Decatur, Alabama, won the South Divisional championship over the Texas Jr. Brahmas in two games to earn a spot in the playoffs after defeating the Sugar Land (TX) Imperials in three games in the divisional semifinals.
Josh Hamilton led the Alabama squad with 37 goals this season including five playoff games. Teammate Justin Dunn is the assist leader with 53.
The #5 Great Falls Americans (39-11-2) won their fifth straight playoff game by escaping with a 2-1 win over #4 Point Mallard (Alabama) Ducks during the first day of competition at the 2016 NA3HL Silver Cup Championship Hockey Tournament in Illinois.
Forward Wade Wylie dished out his 16th assist seven minutes into the game when he found Tyler Garcia for the power play score to open up the first period of play at the Silver Cup Tournament. Great Falls prevented the Ducks offense from finding the back of the net during the first twenty minutes. Despite the one-point deficit, Point Mallard out-shot the Americans 14-3. Goaltender Jake Stephan had 14 saves.
The scoring was kept to a minimum during the second period. Josh Hamilton’s unassisted score for Point Mallard tied the contest at 1-1 with 1:08 left before intermission. Great Falls produced 13 shots-on-goal but trailed in that category after two periods, 17-16.
The Great Falls Americans broke the tie at the 7:51 mark of the final period of regulation. Malachi Bushey fired a shot that sailed by the Ducks goaltender Cooper Seedott off the stick of Adam Apangalook to give the Americans back the lead. Both defenses held up the rest of the way.
During the middle period, Great Falls took 13 of their 19 total shots of the night. The team from Alabama finished with five more shots than Great Falls (24-19) with 14 coming in the first period. Great Falls stopped all six of Point Mallard’s power play chances from becoming points. Tyler Garcia provided the only successful power play for the Americans in their three opportunities.
The Americans could not stay away from the penalty box as the Montana team finished with seven infractions for 24 minutes of penalty time. The Ducks received four minor penalties resulting in eight minutes of penalty time.
Great Falls goaltender Jake Stephan ran his record to 21-4-1 as he stopped 23 of the 24 shots that Point Mallard made. Cooper Seedott recorded 17 saves in 58 minutes of action in the loss for Point Mallard.
In earlier action from Wednesday’s Silver Cup, the #2 Metro (Michigan) Jets (1-0) earned a shutout win over #7 Texas Jr. Brahmas (0-1) and the #3 St. Louis Junior Blues (1-0) edged the #6 Twin City (MN) Steel (0-1) 4-3. The nightcap saw the #1 North Iowa Bulls (1-0) easily defeating the #8 (Wild Card) Yellowstone Quake (0-1), 6-2.
NEXT CONTEST: The #5 Great Falls Americans will now go up against the top-ranked North Iowa Bulls at 6:30PM (MST) in the second day of the prestigious tournament at the Canlan Ice Arena in Romeoville, Illinois on Thursday night.
The five-day tournament features two pools (Pool A and Pool B). The top two in each pool will play in the semifinal round on Saturday (April 2nd) with the winners facing off for the NA3HL championship on Sunday, April 3rd. For more information about the Silver Cup Tournament, please click here.
Additional Media Coverage: March 30, 2016: Great Falls Tribune: Americans win in Chicago, beat Point Mallard