TJ Norris’ hat trick powers Helena past Great Falls for seventh consecutive win

NOTE: A Special Thanks to Dustin Bauer for providing the photos.

By Kevin Scott

Box Score Game Sheet League Scoreboard Americans Team Statistics

HELENA, Mont., February 19, 2022 — Helena Bighorns forward TJ Norris scored his first hat trick (three goals) of the season to lead the #1 Helena Bighorns (39-3-2-0) past the Great Falls Americans (20-19-3-2) 7-2 for their seventh consecutive win in front of a sellout crowd of 1,753 fans attending at the Helena Ice Arena on Saturday night. Their last loss came on January 28th in a 3-2 setback by the Americans in Great Falls. Thomas Gazich and Micah Serino each scored and dished out one assist for the Americans.

Both teams opened with a scoreless tie through the first 14:55 until the Bighorns got the puck in the net for the first score of the game. Gavyn Galloway netted his 17th goal of the season off a pass from Harlan Wojtusik, who produced a hat trick the night before against Great Falls in a 6-3 win (game summary).Helena led 1-0 as both teams headed to the locker room after one period of play. The Bighorns had twice as many shots-on-goal (18-9).

Great Falls, under the direction of head coach Greg Sears, waited eight minutes in the middle stanza before they tied the contest. Thomas Gazich, the team leader in goals scored and second on the team with 44 points, put the biscuit in the basket for his 23rd goal with Micah Serino and Garrett Weisenburger collecting the assists. The Bighorns answered with two goals in the final two minutes before the intermission to take a 3-1 advantage over the Americans. TJ Norris and Samuel Feamster each got the puck through Great Falls goalie Zac Hattan for Helena’s second and third goals of the game. Andrew Deskin tallied the lone assist on Norris’ short-handed score with 2:01 shown on the clock. Tyler Bloom and Adam Harvey had the first of their three assists on Feamster’s 36th goal of the season. During the first forty minutes, Helena outshot Great Falls 39-22.

Adam Harvey increased the Bighorns lead to 4-1 early in the third frame. Johnathan Peterson and Corbin Skinner utilized the visiting team’s penalty kill to get the puck to Harvey, who lit up the lamp. The Americans cut their deficit to two goals (4-2) when Thomas Gazich and Jackson Henningsgard supplied the assists to Micah Serino who got the puck by Bighorns goaltender Eric Buchholz with 7:36 on the game clock. That was as close as it would get for the fourth-place team in the Frontier Division as Helena showed why they only have five losses on the season with their stellar offense acquiring three goals in the final five minutes for their 39th win to remain on top of the Frontier Division standings. TJ Morris scored twice, and Samuel Feamster picked up his second score of the game while Tyler Bloom and Adam Harvey’s efforts landed them their third assists on the game sheet. Liam Bland assisted on Feamster’s goal with three minutes remaining.

The Bighorns took over 18 shots in each of the three periods to end their seventh game against Great Falls with 60. The Americans had a team-high 16 shots in the third for a total of 38.

The game was physical on Saturday with both teams combining for 13 infractions that led to 68 minutes in the penalty box with each team having one ejection for fighting in the first period. Great Falls failed to turn their two power play chances into scoring opportunities. Helena’s first goal of the third period by Adam Harvey was the only converted power play by either team as they went 1-for-2.

Zac Hattan (Great Falls) and Eric Buchholz (Helena) were the goaltenders of their respective teams tonight. Buchholz, one of nine players on Damon Hanson’s squad from Colorado Springs, Colorado, achieved his 23rd win of the season in 27 appearances. He allowed one goal in the second and third periods and created 36 saves. Meanwhile, Zac Hattan had his record fall to 4-7-2-0 in just his second game in the month of February. The Michigan netminder accrued 53 saves.

TJ Norris and Samuel Feamster collected five goals between them for the winning team. Adam Harvey led both teams in points scored with four (1 goal, 3 assists). Thomas Gazich and Micah Serino each had one goal and one assist for the Americans.

NOTES: The top three teams in the Frontier Division added another victory for their respective clubs. Top-ranked Helena defeated #4 Great Falls 7-2, #2 Gillette Wild won 4-1 over the #6 Butte Cobras in Butte, Montana, the third-ranked Bozeman Ice Dogs needed a goal by Wesley Rees in the finals seconds to defeat the #8 Sheridan (WY) Hawks, 5-4 on home ice. The #7 Yellowstone (WY) Quake scored two goals in the second to blank the #5 Badlands (SD) Sabres, 2-0. The box scores from all of the games around the league including the Frontier Division can be found here.

NEXT CONTEST: Three games next week are all that remain in the regular season for the Great Falls Americans, who earlier last week, secured a spot in the 2022 NA3HL Playoffs that will begin the first week of March with a Play-In Series. The Americans will return for the first time to play in front of their home fans at the Great Falls Ice Plex since January 28th on Friday and Saturday, February 25-26 when the Yellowstone Quake make their first and only trip to Great Falls. Both contests will start at 7:30PM (MST) with Megan Lewis on the call as the “Voice of the Americans” on HockeyTV. Great Falls will conclude their season with a road game on Sunday, February 27th for a 4:00PM (MST) contest against the Helena Bighorns at the Helena Ice Arena.

Additional Media Coverage: February 19, 2022: 406 MT Sports: Helena Bighorns extend winning streak to seven, stay in first in Frontier