ROCHESTER, MN – In a must win game at the 2012 USA National tournament, the Helena Bighorns out-played, out-chanced and out worked the Atlanta Knights, but a disallowed Bighorns goal was the difference as Helena was eliminated from the medal round of the national tournament today.
It looked as though Helena was headed for a victory in the early going as they had several chances to score, including a breakaway attempt by Alex DeWitz, but questionable penalties and a series of non-calls in the late going was enough to keep them off the board.
Helena had period shot advantages of 11-8, 13-5 and 13-9 but a lone Atlanta power play goal on a bad bounce off the glass was enough to make tomorrow’s game vs. the Chicago Bulldogs about nothing more than team and league pride.
It appeared the Helena would send the game into overtime with under 2:00 to go, but the official lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle at the same time Alex DeWitz launched a shot past the Atlanta goalkeeper. The goal was negated and Helena had to pull their goalie for an extra attacker. The ‘Horns had all the momentum and each time it appeared they would have a great scoring chance, an event was whistled down to stop play.
“Am I disappointed?, Of course I am,” said Bighorn President, Mike Butters. “When you come to a quality event like this you expect everything to be perfect. That isn’t life. This is an amazing tournament run by amazing people. It was almost perfect. It’s just too bad that our game was put into the hands guys who weren’t up to the standards or quality of the rest of this tournament.” Butters finished by saying, “At the end of the day, we needed to score goals and we didn’t. Our guys left everything they had on the ice and we are proud of them. They simply deserved better.”
“The guys played hard,” said Bighorns Head Coach, Scott Cunningham. “They battled through the adversity and didn’t let the hacks, hold and trips deter them from working towards tying the game.” Cunningham shared in Butters’ sentiments about the tournament, overall. “At the end of the day, this is a fantastic tourney. It is demoralizing to have our players not be rewarded for their work. The lack of consistency and judgement in a key game like this was astonishing. It does not, however, take away from the tournament as a whole. It was a super event. The guys deserved the chance to play for something tomorrow but it wasn’t to be.”
After tomorrow’s game vs. Chicago, the Bighorns will travel home and prepare for what should be a tremendous series vs. Missoula. The AWHL Final Series will feature the Maulers and Bighorns and action will start with Game 1 of the series on April 13 in Missoula. The ‘Horns first home game of the series will be set for Saturday, April 14 at the Helena Ice Arena. “I really hope the fans of the Bighorns and hockey in general show up to give their support of the team through this series,” Butters said. “It might be some of the best hockey that will ever be played.”
Tickets are sale now for the AWHL Finals between Helena and Missoula. Fans can log on to www.helenabighorns.com for more info.
-PRIDE & PASSION-