Helena grabs Bulls by horns

On a team that features six of the top 10 scorers in the NorPac, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. But few players have been more instrumental to the Helena Bighorns’ recent surge than Taylor Laneville.

Laneville, a 20-year-old forward from Lynnwood, Wash., continued his recent hot streak on Saturday night, setting up three goals as the Bighorns took the Billings Bulls by the horns in a 5-1 victory at the Helena Ice Arena.

“We know it’s getting to be crunch time,” Laneville said. “Every game is one step closer to the playoffs.”

Laneville now has 12 points in his last five games, all Helena victories. The Bighorns have won nine straight overall, including four games in the Las Vegas Shootout that do not count in the NorPac standings.

Playing on a reshuffled line with Trevor Tracy and Michael Sullivan, Laneville had three assists on Saturday.

“I usually look pass first,” said Laneville, whose 32 assists rank him fifth on the team in that department.

It might have been enough to earn the line some additional ice time when the team plays three games in three nights next week.

“Laneville and I have wanted to play together for a while,” said Tracy, who had a goal and two assists to extend his scoring streak to 10 games (21 points).

The Bighorns (30-2, 60 points) beat the Bulls for the 21st straight time, including a sweep in the opening round of last year’s playoffs.

Billings (21-24, 42 points), which is chasing Missoula for second place in the America West Division, was missing leading scorer Oliver Wong who was serving a two-game suspension. The Bulls finally scored for the first time in their last three meetings with Helena when Zach McDonald netted a penalty shot in the third period after Austin Buckholz was called for a tripping penalty. It was the first penalty shot against the Bighorns this season.

Goalie Chris Dylewski kept the Bulls in the game, making 66 saves and robbing both Ryan Parkhouse and Anthony Petruzzelli in the second period to keep the score 2-0.

Petruzzelli extended his scoring streak to six games (11 points) when he tapped in a shot by Cody Hess at the side of the net just 1:43 into the contest. But Dylewski settled down and did not allow another goal on Helena’s remaining 28 shots in the period.

Helena finished with 71 shots but rarely got second or third chances as Dylewski did a nice job controlling rebounds.

“He didn’t give up many second chances,” Helena coach Scott Cunningham said. “But I think we made him look good, too. I don’t think any shot is a bad shot. We want to put pucks on net and get bodies in front of the net.”

Tracy made it 2-0 when he got a perfectly timed pass from Laneville in front of the net and beat Delenski early in the second period.

“It’s a matter of milliseconds,” said Laneville, who first looked to shoot before spotting Tracy out of the corner of his eye. “At the last second, I was able to get it over to Tracy.”

The Laneville-Tracy-Sullivan line clicked twice in the third period, the first a picture-perfect play with Tracy getting the puck to Laneville in the neutral zone. Laneville waited for a defender to commit before sliding a cross-ice pass to Sullivan, who scored the first of his two goals on the night.

Mark Vinson: 447-4070 or mark.vinson@helenair.com

HELENA 5, BILLINGS 1

Billings 0 0 1 — 1

Helena 1  1 3 — 5

First period – 1, HEL, Petruzzelli (Hess, Parkhouse), 1:43. Penalties – Laneville, Hel, holding, 6:52; Hagy, Bil, board checking, 8:47; Matthes, Bil, charging, 16:03.

Second period – 2, HEL , Tracy (Laneville, Petruzzelli), 6:39. Penalties – Poulin, Hel, interference, 4:26; Laneville, Hel, cross checking, 7:17; Buckholz, boarding, 10:51.

Third period – 3, HEL, Marek (McSweeney), 4:36 (pp). 4, HEL, Sullivan (Tracy, Laneville), 5:24. 5, BIL, McDonald, 7:26 (ps). 6, Hel, Sullivan (Laneville, Tracy), 9:55. Penalties – Robillard, Bil, holding, 3:26; Buckholz, Hel, tripping, 8:19.

Shots on goal: Bil 3-7-5 – 15, Hel 30-12-29 – 71.

Power plays: Bil 0 for 5, Hel 1 for 3.

Goalies – Bil, Dylewski (71 shots -66 saves), Hel, Wenzell (15-14).