A sense of anticipation filled the Helena Ice Arena as the lights clicked off. Friends, family and fans had travelled across the country to be in Helena for the 2011-2012 home opener. As silence fell in the arena, those in attendance were treated to a 9 minute video commemorating the Bighorns’ 2011 Cascade Cup Championship and Junior A National Championship. After winning the Cascade Cup and going to the national tournament six times, the time had finally come for the Bighorns to hoist the national championship trophy. After the video, the Bighorns took to the ice for the unveiling of the national championship banner. Several veterans from last season’s team proudly looked on as the crowd loudly expressed their approval.

 Having gotten all of the formalities out of the way, the Bighorns got down to do what they do best, play hockey. And they didn’t disappoint. Just 45-seconds into the game, Mark Palacios scored the first goal for the Bighorns, and fans were treated to the first of many Ocean Beauty squid tosses. Drew Ingram and Damon Hanson each scored to leave the Bighorns 3-0 at the end of the first period.

 The Bighorns started with the second period on the penalty kill. Despite the team being short-handed due to a hooking penalty, Kevin Kassulat as able to sneak a shot by Wild goalie Nick Vittori and give the Bighorns their fourth goal of the evening. Gillette pulled Vittori and replaced him with Grant Friesen in an attempt to stem the Bighorns scoring tide. It was to no avail. Hanson scored his second goal of the evening just five minutes into the period and Kassulat quickly following with his second goal as well, both power play goals. Ryan Parkhouse then went on the offensive and scored the Bighorns’ next three goals for a natural hat trick in just under four minutes. Parkhouse’s trifecta included an even-strength goal, a short-handed goal, and power-play goal. Not to be outdone, Hanson claimed the final goal of the period and a hat trick as well.

 Alex DeWitz opened the third period with a goal less than two minutes into play. The Bighorns then had a goal scoring dry-spell and the game went back and forth until Gillette finally put a goal on the board with less than three minutes left in regulation. A slashing penalty by Gillette gave Helena’s Wyatt Winfield the opportunity to score a power-play goal and leave the final score 12-1.

 Fans may have noticed several changes to the game format this season. Our staff has been working extra hard provide fans with a more stream-lined game format and new and exciting promotions. The AWHL now has 15-minute intermissions as opposed to the 20-minutes NORPAC intermissions of last season. Fans also got to experience several new promotions including the Montana Furniture Direct Best Seats in the House and the Perkin’s Five-Hole Pie-Hole Face-off.

 The Bighorns (4-0) will be hitting the ice again this Friday, October 14 as they host the Billings Bulls (2-2) and then travelling to Billings on Saturday to complete the home-and-home series. Fans can purchase tickets to Friday’s game online at www.HelenaBighorns.com or by calling (406) 457-2817.