Image courtesy of Blackfoot Media Group
It’s been a while since the Bighorns have put up a “W”; October 15th actually. That weekend, they swept the Glacier Nationals in Havre before dropping the next 5 games in a row to the Frontier Division’s elite group of Yellowstone, Great Falls and hot newcomer Missoula.
But, with adversity comes growth. With losses, come lessons. And in the case of the rebuilding Helena team, both have sharpened this young squad. It may be cliché by now, but you have to learn to lose before you can learn to win. It all came together this weekend.
Nationals games aren’t exactly easy, but they are games that we expect to win. Coming out of the gate with intensity in the first period is something the Bighorns have struggled with consistently over the course of the first quarter of the schedule. This was not the case Friday night in Havre, however. Helena played aggressive, even angry at times. The Bighorns racked up 10 scoring points between 7 different players while goalie Alex Kruger slammed the door shut on Glacier scoring chances in a game that ended in a 6-2 Helena victory.
Confidence booster? Maybe.
Heading into Saturday’s game against the Bruins was a Missoula team on a seven-game winning streak of their own, including two games over the Bighorns in the beginning of November that totaled a score of 14-3. In the days since, Helena moved goalie Jeremiah Clark to Missoula for future considerations in order to make room for new Bighorns goalie Angus Campbell.
But as rivalries go, teams trade hits, goals, and wins/losses. This game did not disappoint fans from either city. Nearly 500 saw these two teams clash in what was described as a playoff game- the intensity was palpable.
From the gate, the Bighorns continued their trend from Friday night in Havre, having a tremendous first period effort. Despite Missoula scoring the only goal in that first 20 minutes, the Bighorns would not relent. Not even 30 seconds into the second period, Helena tied up the game on a ridiculous rebound put-back by Johnny Heddle.
The next 18 minutes were back and forth; solid hits from both teams, great scoring chances on both goaltenders who came up big, and the effort paid off for the Bighorns in a big way. Captain Kyle Hayter snagged the puck in his own defensive end straight off the stick of a bruin, and seemed determined as he made his way up the ice that this was HIS ice, HIS barn, HIS team!
Hayter’s top-shelf laser would end up being the game winning goal. Campbell’s play in net was incredible, and Brad Estrada sealed the deal with an empty net goal at the end of the third to an electric crowd and a deeply disappointed Bruins squad.
With Adversity, comes growth. With Losses, come lessons. With wins, come Rewards! The Bighorns proved this weekend that they are learning to win.
Helena (6-9-1)is on the road this Friday to Billings to take on the Bulls (3-11) and come back home to play the Nationals (1-15) on Saturday night.