By Kevin Scott
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HELENA, Mont., November 10, 2023 — The #5 Great Falls Americans (8-8-0-0) made the short trek to Helena, Montana on Friday night to face the #2 Helena Bighorns (14-2-0-0) in just the fifth road trip for Great Falls after starting out the 2023-24 campaign with 11 home games at the Great Falls Ice Plex. Earlier this year, Great Falls played a pair of games in Sheridan, WY (Hawks), once in Bozeman, MT (Ice Dogs), and once in Butte, MT (Irish).
Last week at home, Great Falls took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission in their first test against Helena. Helena’s offense took advantage of some Great Falls’ miscues and racked up three second period goals and one third period score for the 4-1 win against the Americans. Aaron James, last week’s NA3HL “Star of the Week” Honorable Mention nominee, scored this fourth goal of the season with under five minutes remaining the first stanza for what turned out to be the Americans lone goal. To read more about the game, please click here.
Great Falls was trying to steal a game inside Helena’s Steed Arena on Friday night against one of the top teams in the NA3HL.
The second-ranked Helena Bighorns showed why they are one of the better teams in the NA3HL on Friday evening when they amassed five second period scores for a dominating 8-2 victory over the #4 Great Falls Americans during NA3HL junior hockey action at Steed Arena in Helena, Montana. Braden Cunningham scored twice, and Dylan Cunningham produced six assists for the winning team.
Helena’s Braden Cunningham scored both goals for the Bighorns in the first period to give the home team the advantage before the first intermission. Dylan Cunningham and Gavin Barr collected the assists on both scoring opportunities.
Americans forward Blake Komrofske cut the Bighorns lead in half (2-1) 78 seconds into the middle frame with assists being made by Tariq Khan and Joseph Buschmann, but the period belonged to the home team. Helena outscored the Americans 5-0 during the 18 minutes for the commanding 7-1 lead. Newcomer Owen Gruener opened the period with his first score in his first appearance for the second-ranked team in the NA3HL’s Frontier Division followed by successful scoring opportunities by Gavin Barr, Dylan Cunningham, Tim Mattingly, and Cam Young. Dylan Cunningham was credited with his third, fourth and fifth assists, while Joe Feamster, Cam Young, Nick Corbett, Owen Gruener, Camden Cunningham, and Ty Moore added one helper each. Through two periods of action, the Bighorns offense outshot the Americans by a wide margin (54-11).
Fourteen minutes eclipsed in the third period before the Bighorns made their eighth goal. Tim Mattingly and Dylan Cunningham helped set up Ty Moore’s fifteenth lamplighter. The Americans added one final score before the game concluded. Ty O’Bey put the puck in the net for his eleventh scoring drive of the season. Sam Duehlmeier picked up his first assist of the season.
The Bighorns attempted no less than 21 shots in a period to finish with 75. Seven of Great Falls’ total of 13 (shots) occurred in the first stanza.
A total of 17 infractions were called that resulted in 85 minutes spent off the ice. The Bighorns took advantage of the power play by scoring three of their eight goals while the Americans were in the sin bin. Five power play chances went unanswered by the Americans.
Bighorns netminder Malik Johnson remained perfect (5-0-0-0) on the season by stopping 11 of 13 shots for his second win in November. The Americans utilized both goaltenders in Kaden Ryhder and Ryan Stowe on Friday. Ryhder suffered his third loss in nine contests (5-3-0-0). He started and played the entire first period before being replaced four minutes into the middle period by Stowe. The Pennsylvania native ended with 28 saves. Backup Ryan Stowe allowed four goals but not before registering 39 saves.
NOTES: Americans forward Ty O’Bey, playing in his first season with Great Falls, spent this past week practicing with the Minot Minotauros of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). In October 2023, Christian Crutcher spent time practicing with the Springfield Jr. Blues in the NAHL.
A trio of players earned NA3HL Stars of the Month honors for coach Greg Sears’ squad. Kayden Ryhder (Goaltender), defenseman Phil Harrell and forward Dmitri Kuleshov earned Honorable Mention in their respective positions for their play in the month of October 2023. Click here for the information.
Forwards Aaron James and Aiden Kennedy were named as NA3HL Honorable Mention “Stars of the Week” that ended on Sunday, November 5th for their play last weekend at home (November 4) against the Helena Bighorns. Click here for the information.
On Thursday, November 16th, Annie’s Tap House (112 Central Avenue in Great Falls), one of this year’s sponsors, is the venue for the Great Falls Americans Booster Club’s “Raise A Pint” Night. For every pint of beer or glass of wine sold between 5:00PM and 8:00PM, Annie’s will donate to the Booster Club. Come on out to mingle with hockey fans and enjoy some adult beverages.
Once again, the Great Falls Americans are teaming up with the Uptown Optimist Club in Great Falls for their annual Christmas Tree sales. Our players will be setting up and helping with the delivery of the trees next week (week of November 13th). Tree tickets are $50.00 per book and is good for your tree, wreath, door charms or accessories purchase. Contact Dana Schoolcraft (email@example.com) to secure your tree tickets.
In this week’s “Baldy’s Puck Drop” Newsletter, Americans team owner Matt Leaf has a player profile of forward Jacob James, sponsor information, and upcoming Americans events. Click here to view this past week’s newsletter and all the weekly “Baldy’s Puck Drop” Newsletters.
This week, another episode of the “Americans Podcast with Jim Quick” was completed with his guest being forward Cade Bendigo. Check out the Bendigo interview and the previous six podcasts by Jim Quick. Fans can listen to the full podcasts by clicking here.
Check out all the Americans photos throughout the season with many of the game action photos taken by Americans photographer, Dustin Bauer. Click here to view all the photos from the 2023-24 season.
Click here to view the Americans online team store that features a variety of different souvenirs to purchase. A store is available at all home games. Fans can also buy game day tickets on the website prior to the game by clicking here.
Please check out the Americans website at www.greatfallsamericans.com for all your updated news, game summaries, rosters, photo galleries, etc.
FRONTIER DIVISION UPDATE: Payton Kor and Adam Severson combined for five of the Gillette (WY) Wild’s (15-1-0-1) nine goals as the top-ranked Frontier Division squad blanked the #7 Sheridan (WY) Hawks (4-11-1-1), 9-0 in a road game in Sheridan, Wyoming. Severson finished with a hat trick (three goals). Gillette outshot Sheridan, 57-15. Weston Gerke’s remained a perfect 4-0-0-0 in his sixth appearance for the Wild by swatting away all 15 shots sent by the Hawks. After playing the prior season with the Badlands Sabres, Zach Broxterman continues to struggle in the net for the Hawks. The Kansas native is 2-7-1-1. He had 33 stops before being replaced by Tyler Ouren midway through the third period. Ouren ended his night with 15 saves (Box Score).
Bozeman’s Mason Czarnecki scored two first period goals and Wes Innes and Andrew Kaunas chipped in two assists as the #3 Bozeman Ice Dogs (10-6-0-1) raced by the #6 Butte Irish (7-8-0-0) on Friday, 6-2. In his first season with Bozeman, Matthew Ryynanen improved his record to 7-4-0-1 by adding 24 saves to his resume with the Ice Dogs. Meanwhile, third-year Butte netminder Braylon Rodgers saw his record drop to 3-3-0-0. The Billings, Montana standout compiled 10 saves in the setback (Box Score).
The #8 Yellowstone (WY) Quake (0-16-1-0) comeback bid fell short as they were looking for their first win of the season after 17 games when they encountered the #4 Badlands (SD) Sabres (7-5-1-2) in Cody, Wyoming. Rhylan Olson (Badlands) and John Kotsilidis (Yellowstone) traded first period goals before Brooks Roaldson’s scpre in the second broke the 1-1 tie. Roaldson’s teammate, Ryan Jordan made it 3-1 with 5:35 remaining. A Yellowstone goal by Everett Ingram with three minutes left pulled the Quake to within one goal (3-2) but they could not find a solution to their winless streak despite the late scoring drive. Dakota Jahnke (Badlands) garnered his first win (1-0-1-1) after losing one game in overtime and another in a shootout this season. The first year netminder finished with 20 saves. Despite a 43-save effort, Yellowstone’s Ben Delisi, who played in his first contest with Wyoming, allowed three goals in the 3-2 loss (Box Score).
NEXT CONTEST: Great Falls will play the Helena Bighorns inside Steed Arena on Saturday, November 11th for the final time until both squads face each other in February 2024. Game time for the third meeting between these two foes starts at 7:05PM (MST). NAHLTV is the place to catch all the Great Falls Americans contests all season long. Both home and away games can be seen on the NA3HL’s official streaming service. To learn more about how to view any of the Americans games on NAHL TV, please click here.
AMERICANS WATCH PARTY: The Stadum Bar and Casino, located at 1121 5th Street South in Great Falls, hosts the “Americans Watch Party” this season when the Americans are on the road. Fans are invited to get food and drinks and watch the game.
Click here for the 2023-24 Great Falls Americans schedule and results.
Additional Media Coverage: November 9, 2023: Staradio: Weekly Radio Interview by Staradio Sports Director Troy Mellinger with Great Falls Americans Head Coach Greg Sears every week. Click here to listen to the full interviews.
Additional Media Coverage: November 9, 2023: Baldy’s Puck Drop: Weekly Americans Newsletter by Team Owner, Matt Leaf, Volume 10. Click here to view the entire inaugural newsletter.
Additional Media Coverage: November 10, 2023: Americans Podcast with Jim Quick: Americans forward Cade Bendigo talked hockey with Jim. Click here to listen to all episodes.