HELENA — The decisive Game 3 between Helena and Great Falls did not carry much drama. Helena built a 4-1 lead after the second period on its way to a 5-1 victory on Saturday night, clinching the Frontier Division title and a trip to the Fraser Cup Playoffs.
Helena grabbed a quick 2-0 lead in the first period on a pair of goals by Elliot Plourde. The two goals came before 10 minutes had ticked off the clock. Great Falls, though, would score just 3:19 into the second period to make it 2-1.
Just as Great Falls looked like it was turning the momentum in its favor, Helena took advantage of the Americans’ mistakes. Helena had a man-advantage on the power play midway through the second period, and Plourde found Darren Donovan streaking towards the net. Donovan somehow got the one-timer past the goalie as he was nearly taken to the ground.
As the second period wound to a close, the Bighorns again capitalized on the power play. A one-timer by Justin Sullivan caromed off the goalie right to the stick of Hayden Seitz, who put the puck in the back of an open net to extend the Helena lead to 4-1. Just 1:29 into the third period, Helena stuck the dagger in Great Falls with its third power-play goal of the night, when Luc Cross cleaned up another rebound in front of the net.
The game got chippy in the second and third periods, though, as the teams combined for 22 penalties in the final 40 minutes, including three separate 10-minute misconduct penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. In total, there were 47 penalty minutes on Helena and 60 on Great Falls.
Helena’s advantage on the power play was clear, as the Bighorns converted 3 of 11 opportunities, while Great Falls was 0-for-7.
The Bighorns advance to the 2019 Fraser Cup at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Ill., which consists of six divisional playoff champions competing in two separate three-team pools. Helena’s first game will be on Wednesday, Mar. 27 against Lewiston/Auburn Nordiques out of Maine.