By The Independent Record | Posted: Saturday, January 30, 2010 12:30 am
MISSOULA – Ryan Sutliffe made a season-high 56 saves and Nolan Grauer scored twice as the Helena Bighorns beat the Missoula Maulers 5-2 in a NorPace game on Friday night.
With the victory, the Bighorns (35-4, 70 points) maintain a 14-point lead over Yellowstone in the America West Division and reduce their magic number to clinch the division title to two.
“Sutliffe had a heck of a night,” Helena assistant coach Chris Hartly said.
Helena killed off eight of nine Missoula power plays, including three in the final period.
Clinging to a 3-2 lead with just over five minutes remaining, Helena got an insurance goal from Adam Johnson to make it 4-2. Missoula tried to clear the puck out of its zone and Johnson intercepted a pass and beat Maulers goalie Randy Japchen.
Tyler Sybil added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Helena jumped to a 2-0 lead early in the second period on goal by Rudy Pino (his 35 th) and Grauer. After Doug Raymond’s power play goal cut the margin to 2-1, Grauer scored his second of the night at 8:33 to extend the lead to 3-1. It was Grauer’s third multi-goal game of the season.
Michale Zook’s goal midway through the second period pulled Missoula within 3-2 after 40 minutes.
Sutliffe improved to 22-3 on the season.