HELENA — When Bob Richards took over coaching the NA3HL’s Helena Bighorns in 2016, he knew he wouldn’t be handed success.
Last year, they took a step forward and made the postseason.
Now in Year 3, his Bighorns have taken an even bigger step forward.
Just a month into the season, Helena stands alone undefeated in the Frontier Division following Saturday night’s 8-2 win over the Bozeman Icedogs at the Helena Ice Arena.
The common theme in the locker room seems to be team chemistry.
“It all started three years ago,” Richards said. “We have guys who have been with us for three years now and they have been coming back and do what we have asked them to do.”
Kaden Lindberg grew up in Helena and started playing hockey for the Bighorns when Richards took over. He scored just one goal over 19 games.
Now, two years later, he ranks third on the team with 12 points, including four goals, in his first eight games.
But Lindberg isn’t the only player having success. He welcomed some new teammates with open arms who have really helped the offense.
“I think to start the year we had a good recruiting season,” Richards said. “We brought in the guys we knew we wanted and the players themselves are just working hard and doing what we have been asking of them."
One of the Bighorns star recruits is forward Elliot Plourde. This season, the Seattle native leads the team with 14 goals and has also dished out three assists.
Richards didn’t just recruit Plourde for his scoring ability, but also for his dedicated work ethic, whether during practice or on the ice in front of the home fans.
“He has the experience and he’s very talented with the puck, has a great scoring touch and brings a lot of speed,” Richards said. “You combine that with the fact he is a level-headed kid and a natural leader, it really shows out there.”
Plourde continued his streak of eight straight games with a goal when he scored late in the second period against Bozeman Saturday, but he knows even with all the team’s success, he can’t look too far ahead.
While Plourde has been an unstoppable force to opposing goalies, he was surrounded by a supporting cast who helped the Bighorns skate to victory.
Helena was trailing by a goal early in the first period, but Luc Cross received a pass from JJ Blondin to tie the score. Roughly two minutes later, Richie Groskops gave the Bighorns the lead.
Eight different players scored a goal in the game, and with an offense that averages 6.6 goals per game, Richards knows he has plenty of players who can attack the net.
“We feel like we have three solid lines that can roll with with any line in the league,” Richards said. “It’s probably the biggest reason we are 8-0.”
The Bighorns have five more months of hockey at the Helena Ice Arena, and while the unblemished record sounds nice to start, the players know they can’t get too ahead of themselves. Their focus is just on their next game when they have a rematch with the Icedogs up in Bozeman Friday night.
“We just need to play our game, the game we practice,” Plourde said. “Different teams have different skill levels across the division and we just need to show up and focus on our game every single night.”