The Helena Bighorns have been Tier 3 national champions before, but they have never won the Fraser Cup Championship of the NA3HL.
However, after an opening win at the tournament, they have put themselves in a position to at least reach the semifinals.
Wednesday was the opening day of competition and the Bighorns, who were the sixth-place team in the Frontier Division a year ago, made their presence felt with a 2-0 victory over second-seeded Granite City, which had the second-best record in the NA3HL in the regular season.
One thing that allowed the Lumberjacks to dominate during the season was their defense. It was tops in goals allowed in the regular season and the playoffs. Yet, Helena’s Liam Bland, who leads the entire NA3HL in postseason goals with 11, scored that 11th goal in the first period to give the Bighorns a 1-0 advantage.
That goal came about midway through the first period. But the first goal of the night for Rochester City never came.
In other first round action, the Northeast Generals (No. 1 seed) knocked off the Rochester Grizzlies (No. 4) 5-2. Gillette, Helena’s Frontier rival will play Northeast on Thursday, while El Paso, the other team in Helena’s pool will take on Granite City.
The top two teams in each three-team group advance to the next round, so the Bighorns are already in a strong position to reach Saturday’s semifinals.
If they win again Friday against El Paso at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. local time), they will be the top seed from their group and will face the lowest seed left on the other side of the bracket.
Either way, Helena is in a good position to extend its stay until the weekend.