Bighorns Rout Riders

By MARK VINSON Independent Record | Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010 12:05 am

It had been a longer-than-normal week for the Helena Bighorns. Coming on the heels of a rare defeat and a postponement, the Bighorns hadn’t taken the ice for a live game in seven days.

The Butte Roughriders paid the price.

Taylor Laneville had his first two-goal game since opening night and Rudy Pino had four points as the Bighorns beat the Roughriders for the 10th straight time, 10-1 in a NorPac contest on Thursday night at the Helena Ice Arena.

“It was a good night for a lot of guys that don’t normally get in the lineup a lot,” Bighorns head coach Scott Cunningham said. “Tonight’s game was about keeping it simple and moving our feet.”

Helena (34-4, 68 points) wasted little time jumping on the last-place Riders, scoring five times on seven power play chances and reducing its magic number to clinch the America West Division title to four.

“We wanted to get back on the ice,” said forward Nolan Grauer, one of seven Bighorns with at least two points. “It was a little disappointing that we couldn’t make the game Saturday.”

The Bighorns’ team bus, which stalled with transmission problems less than a mile from their home arena last Saturday and forced the postponement, is back in good repair and set to take the team to Missoula for tonight’s rematch with a Maulers team that handed Helena consecutive losses right after the holiday break.

“It’s not a must-win in my mind,” Cunningham said. “We just have to work hard and get better as a team.”

Laneville scored twice on the power play Thursday, the first coming on a deflection of Zack Maxwell’s shot from the point. The second came on a rebound of a Chad James shot and gave Helena a 4-0 lead midway through the second period. He also had an assist.

“It’s good to produce, but it’s always a team effort,” said Laneville, whose 12 goals and 37 points this season are more than any of the current Roughriders.

Pino (71 points) had two goals and two assists, while Adam Johnson (67 points) had two goals and an assist, giving Pino 20 points in six games against Butte and Johnson 14 in five meetings with the Riders this season.

“It’s tough to get ready for these games, because you know they’re not very good,” Grauer said of the 3-37 Riders. “But you just have to prepare yourself mentally to come out and play hard so you can come out the next night with that same momentum.”

Nic Wackerly, the team’s designated Butte stopper, stopped 19 shots and earned his sixth victory of the season against the Riders, but missed a chance at a league-best fourth shutout when Jacob Kuper tallied on a breakaway early in the third period. Wackerly has allowed just three goals on 118 shots against Butte this season.

The Bighorns kept the pedal to the medal throughout, having a 65-20 shot advantage and killing off all five penalties against them. Kellen Tollefson closed the scoring with his first goal in eight games as a Bighorn.

“This game means a lot to everybody in that locker room because of last week,” Laneville said.