By Tiffany L. Rehbein
It's not often Havre cheers for Great Falls, but they were cheering Thursday night at the Havre Ice Dome.
Eric Smith and Adam Holmgren scored two goals apiece to lead the Great Falls Americans to an 8-4 victory over the California Ventura Mariners in an exhibition game at Havre.
"It was great to get out there with the Havre people," said Rikard Gronborg, the head coach of the Americans. "The crowd was excellent. It was a great crowd. Hopefully, we can get some fans to Great Falls now."
Twenty-nine seconds into the first period, Great Falls' Chris Olson scored on a power play, assisted by Miika Huczkowski, to lift the Americans to a 1-0 lead.
More than seven minutes into the game, Holmgren scored on an assist by Olson.
And the scoring fury didn't end, when, with 8:50 remaining in the period, Brick Palazetti scored unassisted to lift the Americans to a 3-0 lead.
The Americans, 23-10-3, won their seventh straight game, but rested some of their key players to prepare them for the upcoming conference weekend.
But the less experienced performed just fine for Great Falls.
"They're finishing better, and moving well," Gronborg said.
The Americans opened the second period with two goals scored within five minutes of each other.
Ben Manny scored on an assist by Pat Dwyer, and Spanky Leonard tallied an unassisted goal, that lifted the Americans to a 5-0 lead.
But it was Dwyer and his actions that landed him in the penalty box (three times in the game) that kept the crowd involved.
You didn't have to look at the stat sheet to know that James Jernberg led the team in penalty minutes, it was written all over his front teeth -- or the lack of one of them.
But it was Dwyer who spent the most time in the jug last night.
The highlight came in the third period when Dwyer and California's Maru Mau'u dropped gloves and slung off helmets and entered the imaginary boxing ring.
With the entire crowd of more than 700 on its feet, Dwyer landed two stiff punches to Mau'u's head, but was knocked to the ground.
The referees stepped in, but Mau'u poked three tough jabs into Dwyer's face, while he was on the ground.
"That's got to hurt," a young Havre fan, who plays on the Havre Ice Hawks mites team, said.
Mau'u was ejected from the game with 8:38 remaining.
The third period proved most exciting for the Mariners, who tallied four goals in the period.
With 13:26 remaining in the game, Mau'u, before his ejection, smoked a goal past Justin Johnson. Johnson stopped 24 shots on goal for the Americans.
Goalies Brandon Crawford-West and Ryan Dobbs combined for just 35 stops for the Mariners.
Bobby Holobuek, Shaun Smith, and Dave Brown tallied the other goals for Ventura. Brown also notched two assists in the scoring drive.
"What we got is what we expected," said Scott Yorkison, head coach of the Mariners
The Mariners, a Junior B team, are one step below the Americans , a Junior A team, in the amateur league.
"Our goal is to develop players so that they can compete in a level such as the Great Falls Americans play," Yorkison said.
The Mariners, in Montana to play an exhibition game with the Bozeman Ice Dogs Friday, had to play Great Falls at Havre because the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls had no ice. The Montana Pro Rodeo was at the home arena.
"I like the rink here," Yorkison said. "It is a nice atmosphere; a great crowd. The people here are extraordinarily nice and they seemed to enjoy the game."
The Americans will play at Bozeman Friday and at Helena Sunday. Both are America West Hockey League games.
California Ventura Mariners
0 0 4 4
Great Falls Americans
3 3 2 8
First period -- 1. Great Falls, Chris Olson, 22 (Muka Huczkowski, 6, Ty Deineme, 9) :29; 2. Great Falls, Adam Holmgren 13 (Chris Olson, 22) 7:33; 3. Great Falls, Brock Palazetti, 14.
Second period -- 1. Great Falls, Ben Manny, 16 (Pat Dwyer, 8, Steve Moe, 18) 2:55; 2. Great Falls, Jed Leonard, 24; 3. Great Falls, Eric Smith, 21 (Pat Dwyer, 8) 1:41.
Third period -- 1. Great Falls, Pat Dwyer, 8 (Eric Smith, 25, Steve Moe, 18) 1:41; 2. California, Marv Mauv, 9 (Dave Brown, 16) 6:34; 3. California, Bobby Holobuck, 21 (Dave Brown, 16, Marv Mauv, 9) 6:34; 4. Shaun Smith, 25 (Cale Finseth, 7, Dave Brown, 16) 12:20; 5. Great Falls, Adam Holmgren, 13, 18:22; 6. California, Dave Brown, 16 (Jeff Worlton, 24) 19:10
Shots on goal -- California, 8-7-13 28; Great Falls, 12-18-14 44
Goalies -- California, Ryan Dobbs, 1, Brandon Crawford-West, 37; Great Falls, Justin Johnson, 35.