HELENA — For 52 minutes the Helena Bighorns were exactly where they needed to be. One power play goal later and the Bighorns had their backs against the wall.
Jack Moore scored a power play goal at the 12:51 mark in the third period, lifting the Yellowstone Quake to a 2-0 series win over Helena in the North American Tier III Hockey League playoffs, eliminating the Bighorns and sending Yellowstone to the Fraser Cup Finals in Chicago next week.
Yellowstone finished the Frontier Division portion of the playoffs with a perfect 4-0 record, sweeping Gillette and Helena in consecutive series. The Bighorns were eliminated after a 2-2 mark, sweeping Great Falls before the weekend’s losses to the Quake.
Fans packed the Helena Iceplex Saturday, hoping to will their Bighorns to another day, a potential Sunday showdown with a winner-take-all atmosphere in Cody, Wyoming. But Moore’s goal, paired with great defense in the final eight minutes from Yellowstone, ruined the party in the Capital City.
Helena had chances in the final minutes, including a power play opportunity before Moore’s go-ahead goal. But the Quake shut down all hopes of a goal, scoring their own minutes later.
The Bighorns were awarded a power play with 18 seconds remaining, plus took advantage of a pulled goalie, but Yellowstone won the face-off and held possession in the corner of the rink to drain the clock. Officials dropped the puck one final time with four seconds to play, but Helena’s final attempt was off the mark.