GREAT FALLS – The long and grueling 47-game regular season for the NA3HL has come to an end. Now the Frontier Division semifinals loom near. Lying ahead for the Great Falls Americans is a three-game series with the Bozeman Ice Dogs to decide who gets to go to the division finals.
“Bozeman is a good team. They have a really good first line, their coach has worked really hard this season to get them in a position to make the playoffs and finish strong,” said Americans head coach Greg Sears. “They have a good record and they work hard. It’s a tough match-up for us.”
Great Falls cruised through the regular season with an eye-opening 38-8 record, so it’s no surprise that the team feels pretty confident heading into postseason play.
“I think our power play is probably one of the best in the league. Nobody can really stop us if we get on the power play. That’s really our strong suit,” said forward Cody Dearing.
“Experience, we have so much experience on our team. We’re maybe the oldest or second oldest team in the league, and it shows,” said defenseman Trent Cowden. “We have depth, we have four full lines. That’s huge, not a lot of other teams really have that.”
The Americans veteran roster has made the transition smooth for the first-year head coach Sears, earning the second-best record in the Frontier Division and a playoff spot.
“He’s awesome, he’s always encouraging us and making us better every day. He never lets us down, really,” said Dearing.
“It’s been good, it’s a good group of guys. They’re buying into what we’re trying to do here,” said Sears. “The season has flown by, I can’t believe it’s March already. They’re a really good group of kids, I couldn’t ask for much more.”
The brutal stretch of games throughout the year sometimes can break a team, but this Great Falls squad has remained relaxed all year as the wins just keep piling up. And that’s a strategy the team looks to take into the upcoming meaningful games.
“It’s a long season, but we find a way to stay loose and enjoy ourselves,” said Cowden. “We’re with each other all the time. We find a way, especially during practice or working out, to just to enjoy the little things.”
The Americans will host Bozeman at the Great Falls Ice Plex at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 15 before heading to Bozeman on Saturday. If need be, the third game will be back in Great Falls on Sunday, March 17.