Wackerly, Bighorns blank Boulder

MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — Adam Johnson and Gehrett Sargis had two goals apiece and the Helena Bighorns bounced back from a first-day loss at the USA Hockey Tier III Junior A national tournament with a 5-0 drubbing of the Boulder (Colo.) Bison on Saturday.

The Bighorns are now 1-1 in the three-game round-robin portion of the tournament and will need a win against defending champion New Hampshire today at 4:30 p.m. if they hope to make it to the semifinals for the first time.

Helena lost its first game Friday 4-2 to the Dubuque (Iowa) Thunderbirds.

“Everybody played a hell of a lot better than they did the night before,” said Bighorns head coach Scott Cunningham. “We played solid defense, and (the Bison) didn’t play their best.”

Rudi Pino got the Bighorns’ scoring started off early with a goal 5:43 into the first period. Sargis scored roughly 10 minutes later and he and Johnson traded off points the next two periods, each picking up a power-play goal.

Pino also finished with two assists.

Nic Wackerly played in net, stopping 28 shots and picking up his fourth shutout since the beginning of the regular season.

Boulder’s Mathieu Laberge had 22 saves for a squad that hasn’t scored in the tournament yet. The Bison were shut out 10-0 by New Hampshire the night before.

The Monarchs knocked Helena out of a potential wild card spot in the playoffs last season with a 5-2 loss. If the Bighorns can tie New Hampshire’s record after the round robin, the tiebreaker will be decided by goal differential.

First, the Bighorns have to win.

“If we play well defensively and don’t let them capitalize on our mistakes, we have a good chance,” Cunningham said. “(New Hampshire) is as good as they were last year.”