(Editor's note: Report by Merrick Parnell)
BLAINE, Minn. -- The Bozeman Icedogs and Butte Cobras traveled to Blaine, Minnesota to take on the North American 3 Hockey League’s (NA3HL) top teams in the annual NA3HL Showcase.
The Icedogs took on the West division-leading North Iowa Bulls, first-place in the central division Rochester Grizzlies, and the top team in the coastal division Northeast Generals.
The Icedogs would lose 5-1 to North Iowa in the opener. Luke McKay had the Icedogs' lone goal and Conan Hayton made 31 saves.
In the next game, Icedog Brock Finn scored the game's first goal in the opening period to give the Icedogs an early lead, but Rochester would score six unanswered goals before Bozeman’s Andrew Bertolini would stop the Rochester goal spree in the third at 15:58. However, it was all for nothing as the damage had been done, with Bozeman losing 6-2.
In the showcase finale, the Northeast Generals skated to a 7-3 win, with Andrew Bertonlini, Luke Hartge and Hazen McKay scoring for Bozeman.
“Going to the NA3HL Showcase creates a huge opportunity to put yourself in front of college scouts and a lot of leagues that are a step above the NA3HL,” said McKay. “As a player, it shows that there is a big difference between the different divisions in the NA3HL and shows players what the pace is going to be like going into Fraser Cup if you win your division and what to prepare for in the future.”
After the Showcase, the Icedogs still maintain a Frontier Division lead over the Great Falls Americans. The Icedogs will enjoy a short holiday break and will return to action on New Year's Eve to take on the Yellowstone Quake in Cody, Wyoming.
The Butte Cobras, meanwhile, returned from the North American Hockey League’s Showcase as winners of two out of their past three games.
Butte would lose the opener to the Milwaukee Power 6-2 but would rebound to beat the Breezy Point (Minnesota) North Stars 5-1 and finish the Showcase by defeating the Long Beach Sharks 6-5.
“It was a really good showcase, winning two out of three is always a good way to go into the break. It was really good to get some secondary scoring out of some guys,” said Butte head coach Chris Shadow. “Having five different guys get goals was really good as we don’t typically do that. Danny (Fielding) did a great job going three in a row.”
The Cobras also got to get a tour of the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild’s locker room, which was a great surprise and experience for the Cobra players.
“It was really special on Monday for the guys to get a tour of the Wild’s locker room and everything. All the people involved in making that happen did a great job, the boys really had a great time and have a memory they will always take with them,” said Shadow.
The two Showcase wins jumped the Cobras ahead of the Helena Big Horns in the Frontier Division and within eight points of the Missoula Bruins. The Cobras will next take on the Bruins in a huge New Year’s Eve matchup in Missoula.