By Kevin Scott
|Box Score||Game Sheet||League Scoreboard||Americans Team Statistics (Playoffs)|
ROMEOVILLE, IL., March 31, 2016 — In the first game of the 2016 NA3HL Silver Cup Championship Tournament in Romeoville, Illinois, the #5 Great Falls Americans (39-12-2) edged the #4 Point Mallard (Alabama) Ducks, 2-1 on Wednesday night as they picked up their first win at the prestigious tournament. During their first appearance at the Silver Cup last season, they went 0-for-3. Tyler Garcia and Malachi Bushey each picked up goals and Americans goalie Jake Stephan finished with 23 saves.
Great Falls’ next opponent would be a tough matchup. The Great Falls Americans challenged the top-ranked team in the NA3HL, the North Iowa Bulls (48-2-3) on Thursday night. The night before, they easily defeated the Yellowstone Quake, 6-2.
Ricards Bernhards currently leads the Americans in scoring with 30 goals and teammate Tanner Congdon is the assist leader with 47.
The two-time defending Silver Cup champion Bulls (2013 and 2014) are based out of Mason City, Iowa, and their top performers are leading scorer Brett Gravelle (63 goals) and Marshall Barnes (56 assists). David Johnson, the Bulls top goalie, is 23-0-1 on the season including three playoff victories. The coaching staff includes former Great Falls Americans assistant coach and Director of Player Personnel, Casey Kirley, who was with Great Falls for the 2014-15 season.
During the 2015-16 NA3HL Playoffs, the Iowa team routed both of their opponents in the Central Division to claim the championship. In the semifinals, they won two straight games over the Rochester (MN) Ice Hawks and out-scored them 22-4. The Bulls topped La Crosse (WI) Freeze 2-0 for the Central Division title while scoring 14 goals and holding the Freeze to five.
The #5 Great Falls Americans led 1-0 through the first two periods before the top-ranked North Iowa Bulls offense scored four straight third period goals to down the Americans, 4-1 during the second day of pool play at the 2016 NA3HL Silver Cup Championship Hockey tournament in Illinois on Thursday evening.
Josh Larson gave Great Falls the early 1-0 lead 3:57 into the opening period off a pass from the team’s assist leader, Tanner Congdon. Jake Stephan blocked all six shots by the Bulls offense and the Americans tallied seven shots-on-goal.
During the middle period, neither team was able to find the back of the net despite both NA3HL squads accounting for 22 shots-on-goal. Great Falls had two minor penalties after the first forty minutes of action.
North Iowa wasted little time getting on the scoreboard in the final period. Mitch Parsons netted the Bulls first points 91 seconds into the final frame. Iowa native Austin Jackson and Kennewick, Washington product Sean Mallonee were each credited with an assist. Ten minutes later, Brett Gravelle, North Iowa’s leading scorer, scored his 63rd goal of the season to break the tie with his unassisted tally coming with eight minutes left in regulation. Kohei Sato, a forward from Japan, scored two goals in the final 2:20. Sato’s first goal went unassisted and Tom Lindgren registered the assist on the final goal with 1:57 to ensure the top-ranked team in the NA3HL got their second tournament win in as many days.
North Iowa scored four goals on 33 shot attempts by their offense with nine of those shots coming in the third stanza. Great Falls didn’t have over nine shots in any of the period and ended the contest with 20.
Kohei Sato’s second goal was the only power play that was converted by the Iowa team in their five attempts. Great Falls did not have any power play chances.
The #1 North Iowa team avoided the penalty box throughout the game while Great Falls incurred eight minutes of penalty time with four minors.
Jake Stephan had 24 of his 33 saves before the second intermission in his sixth loss of the season. David Johnson, the net-minder for North Iowa, stopped 19 shots and has won 23 of the 24 games he has started.
The #7 Texas Jr. Brahmas (1-1) tripped up the St. Louis Jr. Blues (1-1) by the score of 4-2. The second-ranked Metro Jets remained undefeated in the tournament (2-0) with a 2-1 win over the Twin City (MN) Steel (0-2). The Yellowstone Quake (0-2) struggled on the offensive side of the puck and fell to the #4 Point Mallard (Alabama) Ducks (1-1), 3-0 in the other games on Thursday at the Silver Cup.
Friday’s schedule sees the #3 St. Louis Jr. Blues facing the #2 Metro Jets beginning at 3:00PM (MST), the Texas Jr. Brahmas challenging the Twin City (MN) Steel at 3:30PM (MST) followed by the Point Mallard Ducks taking on the North Iowa Bulls at 6:00PM.
NEXT CONTEST: The #5 Great Falls Americans (1-1) will now go up against Frontier Division foe, the Yellowstone Quake (0-2) on Friday night at 6:30PM (MST) in the third day of the Silver Cup Tournament and the final day of pool play at the Canlan Ice Arena in Romeoville, Illinois.
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 31, 2016: Great Falls Tribune: Third-period woes doom Americans, lose to North Iowa