The Helena Bighorns made sure this game wasn’t going to be close.
Having given up their only loss of the season to the Missoula Maulers in overtime two weeks ago, the Bighorns (21-1) took an early lead and rode to a 7-3 win on Saturday.
Helena now has a five-game win streak and leads the NorPac America West Division by 10 points over the Maulers (16-8).
“It’s always good to win at home, there’s no getting around that,” said Bighorns head coach Scott Cunningham.“The last two games Missoula gave us everything we wanted.
“I think both of those overtime games, especially the one at home that we won, we weren’t playing well early on and Missoula was pushing the pace.”
Both of those final games with Missoula ended in overtime as the Bighorns rallied from early deficits.
They came out of the gate running this time, getting a goal by Kevin Kassulat 5:27 into the first period, thanks to assists by Nolan Grauer and Nick Hinsberg.
Cunningham said the line with Kassulat, Grauer and Taylor Laneville performed well all night. Grauer scored the final goal of the first period to make it 5-1, while Laneville had an assist on Austin Buckholz also in the period.
“They put on the pressure and created turnovers down low in their end,” Cunningham said of the line. “We made Missoula make mistakes early and we capitalized.”
Julian Breux scored the lone goal for Missoula in the first period and was joined by teammates Al Maul and Aaron Arnold on the scoreboard in the third.
Nick Hinsberg, Mark Palacios, Patrick Love and Anthony Petruzzelli tallied goals for the Bighorns.
“That’s a huge thing, when you can put up seven goals and seven different scorers,” Cunningham said. “That’s a credit to the guys who are playing, but also to the depth of our team.”
Helena was without forwards Trevor Tracy, who was serving a suspension for fighting, and Luke Rendino.
Patrick Wenzell had 21 saves in net for the win while the Bighorns had 49 shots.