Bighorns Roll Past Maulers

Independent Record | Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010

MISSOULA — Adam Johnson scored four goals and the Helena Bighorns proved why they’re the No. 1 seed heading into the NorPac America West Division playoffs next week with a 6-2 win over second-seeded Missoula on Friday.

The Bighorns (41-5) will play their final regular season game tonight when they host Butte (4-42) at 7:30 p.m. in the Helena Ice Arena.

“It was a pretty good game,” said Bighorns assistant coach Chris Hartly. “It was kind of back and forth, but the chances we got we made good on.

“Most of their stuff was from perimeter.”

Helena, which will host Billings (20-27) in the first round of the postseason beginning Tuesday, jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Maulers (33-14) thanks to a hat trick by Johnson and a pair of goals from Gehrett Sargis.

After Sargis scored his second midway through the second period, Missoula’s Aaron Arnold broke the pattern and teammate Julian Breux followed up with a score of his own.

But, Johnson followed up with a power-play goal on assists by Rudy Pino and Zack Maxwell to close out the game. Maxwell would finish with three assists on the night.

“(Johnson’s goals) were all kind of garbage on the doorstep and he was able to slam them home,” Hartly said.

Ryan Sutliffe picked up 25 saves for the Bighorns, who outshot the Maulers 40-27.

Randy Japchen and Andy DiCristofaro shared about equal time in the net for Missoula. DiCristofaro had 20 saves but four goals before giving way to Japchen, who had 14 saves.

Fourth-seeded Billings will host the Bighorns the first two games of the best-of-five playoff series beginning at 7:30 on Tuesday. The Bulls will host them again Wednesday before the Bighorns return to their home ice on Friday.

With a win over Billings on Friday, Yellowstone (33-14) actually tied Missoula for the No. 2 seed. Either way, those two teams will face off with each other in the playoffs.

“If (the game says) anything, you could pick out of that just how deep we are,” Hartly said. “It might look like one line with Johnson getting so many points, but we were running three or four lines all night.

“We should be able to come out ahead, it’s just a matter of everybody showing up.”