BILLINGS -- A night after the Great Falls Americans (36-10-3) survived a 5-4 win over the Billings Bulls (25-18-6) in Game 1 of the NA3HL Frontier Division Semifinals in Great Falls, the second game of a best-of-three series shifted to Billings where the Americans were looking to close out this series against a tough Billings Bulls team.
Would the Great Falls offense put up enough points on the road and stop the Bulls from finding the back of the net? That was the question of the night that needed to be answered.
Great Falls responded with two goals in each period and Lucas Lomax and Josh Larson combined for four goals and two assists to help the top-ranked Great Falls Americans rout the fourth-ranked Billings Bulls 6-2 to secure a spot in next week's 2015 NA3HL Frontier Divisional Finals. Lomax contributed three goals for his second consecutive hat trick.
Lucas Lomax, who celebrated a birthday tonight, picked up where he left off last night with the first goal coming just 20 seconds into the opening period. Cody Page and Josh Larson were credited with the assists. Last night, the Americans leading scorer recorded four goals in the 5-4 game one victory. Page and Larson each finished with three assists against Billings on Thursday night in Great Falls. Larson increased the Great Falls lead to 2-0 with 12:34 left in the period on his unassisted score. Billings cut the deficit to 2-1 off a goal by Tristan Henrichs set up by two Billings forwards, TJ Theodosopoulos and Ian Wiljanen before the period expired.
Great Falls quickly found the back of the net in the middle period thanks to Cody Page's score off a feed from Lucas Lomax and Josh Larson during an Americans power play. The Americans led 3-1 46 seconds into the second stanza. There were lots of defensive stops for the next 15 minutes until Lucas Lomax rang up his second goal of the night. The short-handed score was assisted by Josh Larson, who earned his second assist of the contest, and Reed Link, who chipped in one. The Bulls tallied their second points in the last 50 seconds as Steven Thompson's goal on a power play opportunity from the stick of TJ Theodosopoulos. Great Falls tacked on 29 of the 51 shots-on-goal after the first two periods of action.
Josh Larson and Lucas Lomax scored in the third period to ensure that Great Falls would come out on top. Larson netted his second goal while Lomax chipped in his third for his second consecutive hat trick in as many nights. Dylan Garton and Lucas Lomax received assists on Larson's power play scoring opportunity while Larson and Lucas Stover helped Lomax achieve his hat trick.
Great Falls took 13 shots and converted two goals in the final period to out-shoot the Billings franchise 42-20.
The Americans, who now advance to the NA3HL Frontier Finals against the winner of the Helena-Gillette series, finished with six minors for 12 minutes of penalty time while the Bulls, who saw their season come to a close, incurred 24 minutes of penalty time including seven minors and one major.
Three different Great Falls Americans took advantage of power play opportunities that resulted in points including Cody Page, Josh Larson and Lucas Lomax. Steven Thompson's second period score for Billings was the lone successful power play for them.
Lomax and Larson were involved in all six of the Americans scoring plays. Lomax had another break-out game and got his second hat trick of the series along with two assists. Larson scored in the first and third periods and registered four assists. Meanwhile, TJ Theodosopoulos, a Brookings, South Dakota native, made two assists in the loss for Billings.
Great Falls goaltender Jordan Moran allowed one goal each in the first two periods but stayed perfect in the third period and finished with 28 saves. The offensive attack by Great Falls forced Billings goaltender Cole Semchak to work between the pipes. He rejected 36 of the 42 shot attempts that he faced.
There will be a third and decisive Game 3 in the other semi-final series as the #3 Gillette Wild defeated the #2 Helena Bighorns 5-2 on Friday to stay alive in their second game. The teams will remain in Helena for Saturday's 7:05PM contest at the Helena Ice Arena. The winner of that game moves on to the NA3HL Frontier Divisional Finals next week against Great Falls.
NEXT CONTEST: The Great Falls Americans advance to the Frontier Division Finals next week as they await the winner of Saturday night's third game of the Gillette Wild and Helena Bighorns divisional semifinal series.
First Period –1, Great Falls, Lucas Lomax (Cody Page, Josh Larson), 0:20. 2, Great Falls, Josh Larson (unassisted), 7:26. 3, Billings, Tristan Henrichs (TJ Theodosopoulos, Ian Wiljanen), 17:59.
Second Period – 4, Great Falls, Cody Page (power play) (Lucas Lomax, Josh Larson), 0:46. 5, Great Falls, Lucas Lomax (short-handed) (Josh Larson, Reed Link), 15:58. 6, Billings, Steven Thompson (power play) (TJ Theodosopoulos), 19:10.
Third Period – 7, Great Falls, Josh Larson (power play) (Dylan Garton, Lucas Lomax), 11:55. 8, Great Falls, Lucas Lomax (power play) (Josh Larson, Lucas Stover), 16:52.
Shots on Goal - Great Falls 42, Billings 30.
Power-play Opportunities - Great Falls 3-for-6, Billings 1-for-5.