(photo credit: Troy Shockley, Helena Independent Record)
It’s been a roller coaster of a season for the Helena Bighorns.
The ups and downs, twists and full-tilt-upside-down turns have all been a part of the Bighorns journey. Coach Bob Richards said “what matters most is the end result, rather than how it looks while getting there”. True statement.
Hot and cold, better and worse, injuries and suspensions, the Bighorns are returning to the playoffs despite the nay-sayers, clinching the final spot in the NA3HL Frontier Division this past Friday night vs the Billings Bulls with a 7-1 victory on home ice.
Helena acquired player Gavin Cline in a trade at the League Trade Deadline earlier in the week, sending forward Ian Mercado up north to the Glacier Nationals in return. Cline didn’t hesitate to to take on his new role with this club, posting a goal and 3 assists in his first game as a Bighorn.Cline would finish the weekend with a total of 6 points. Hot-handed goaltender Nick Battaglia stopped 12 of 13 shots in a game where the defensive core for Helena stepped up by blocking shots and playing more physically in front of the net.
The Bighorns needed only 4 seconds in the opening period to net their first goal, an took just over a minute after that to score another. Crashing the net and attacking the zone with purpose has been a focus in practice over the last couple weeks; efforts that paid off in both games this weekend.
The ‘horns took on rival Great Falls Americans on Saturday night in a game that looked more like the close ones of the distant past. Heading into the first intermission down 3-1, the Bighorns rallied in the second period, scoring twice more and holding Great Falls to just 13 shots. The Americans and Bighorns fought it out to a incredible game, but fell short of the victory by a final of 4-3.
Now that the Bighorns are playoff-bound, the players are more focused than ever. Three year veteran and assistant captain Jarrett Scheibel said that making the playoffs was one of his goals, but the work doesn’t stop there.
Bighorns have a home game this Friday night as Helen takes on Bozeman, and will be on the road on Saturday to battle Great Falls.