HELENA — Helena Bighorns coach Bob Richards knows Saturday’s game against Great Falls is an important matchup.
It is a battle with the No. 1 team in the Frontier Division of the North American 3 Hockey League.
But there was no way he was going to let his players look that far ahead.
The second-place Bighorns hosted the Bozeman Icedogs on Friday night and came away with a 3-0 shutout at the Helena Ice Arena before a crowd of 475.
The win was the Bighorns fifth in six meetings with third-place Bozeman this season.
“It’s nice getting a win after a tough loss against them last weekend in Bozeman,” Richards said. “We had a good week of practice and we knew it was going to be a tough game."
Helena came right out of the gates with some offense as forward Elliot Plourde cut through the defense but his shot was offline.
The Icedogs responded with clean looks from Luke McKay and Rhys Phelps, but they still couldn’t find the back of the net.
Helena goalie Carver Thompson stayed tough on another shot by McCay with a glove save to keep the game tied 0-0.
Garrett Dryden, a Laurel native, came in of relief of Thompson with a .919 save percentage in 11 games this season.
“Carver played well,” Richards said. “He made the stops he had it especially the last five minutes of the game.”
Helena finally got on the board eight minutes into the first period when Porter Tirrill received the puck from Valary Dietz across the ice for the break away score.
It was his 12th goal this season.
The Bighorns doubled their lead four minutes later when Plourde got a rebound and scored.
Things became chippy between both teams in the second period as both Phelps and Helena’s William Wallace were called for penalties.
Later in the period Bozeman’s Duncan McGarrah was called for a slashing penalty and a fight broke out.
McGarrah and Helena’s JJ Blondin and Nicholas Cenis were all ejected and suspensions could be handed out.
Bozeman received a power play opportunity at the end of the second period, but it couldn’t take advantage.
The Icedogs finished the last five minutes on a power play but Helena scored in the final minute on a goal from Nicholas Pedersen.
The win now places the Bighorns three points behind Great Falls entering Saturday’s contest.
The Great Falls Americans have already clinched a spot in the playoffs with the Bighorns looking to secure their spot soon. The regular season title is still up for grams.
“Emotions are running high and it’s going to be an even emotional game (Saturday)," Richards said.