CODY, Wyo. – Cody Hess had a pair of power-play goals and the Helena Bighorns evened up the NorPac America West Division title series on Wednesday with a 7-3 win over the Yellowstone Quake.
The two-time reigning Cascade Cup champion Bighorns, who stumbled in a 5-2 loss to the Quake on Tuesday, scored three goals on six power-play opportunities and found life on the road, never trailing in the rematch.
Helena will host the last three playoff games – if necessary – in the best-of-five series, beginning with Friday\’s matchup at 7:30 p.m. in the Helena Ice Arena.
For Bighorns head coach Scott Cunningham the the win was a big relief after his team struggled to keep up with the Quake and went 0-for-10 on power plays in their first matchup.
\”We didn\’t play well at all (the previous) night in any area of the game,\” Cunningham said. \”We watched a little bit of video of the game. We talked about it and bottom line was we didn\’t work hard enough.\”
For starters, the Bighorns\’ defense began standing up Yellowstone at the blue line while goalie Ryan Sutliffe had a strong presence in the net, turning away 29 shots.
\”The defense, they did a good job, they had good gap control and weren\’t backing up,\” Cunningham said. \”But, we also had forwards in position where they were allowed to step up, hold the line and make plays.\”
A few were even sacrificing their bodies to stop Yellowstone\’s shots.
\”Nolan Grauer laid down three or four times to block the puck in one shift,\” Cunningham said. \”That\’s pretty scary when it\’s coming at 80 or 90 miles per hour.
\”He paid the price.\”
After a scoreless first period, the Bighorns finally broke through on a power-play goal by Adam Johnson. John Celli and Gehrett Sargis followed up to give Helena a 3-0 lead with 4:28 left in the game.
Yellowstone\’s Tyler Roberts scored on a power play before the period\’s end, but Hess started the third with both of his goals, getting his second just 3:24 into the final stanza.
Tom Lee and Tyler Miller would add to the tally while Chris Rinaldi and Andrew Lord scored back-to-back goals in the third.
Yellowstone goalie Alex Larson had 48 saves.
The Quake scored twice on six power plays.
Cunningham can\’t say his team didn\’t play hard this time around. It made all the difference.
\”We didn\’t change anything, we stuck to our systems and it paid off for us,\” he said. \”We responded tonight a lot differently than we did last night.\”