MISSOULA — With the playoffs looming next weekend, the Missoula Jr. Bruins were intent on building some momentum Friday at Glacier Ice Rink.
Missoula boosted its record to 26-19-1 in the NA3 Hockey League's Frontier Division with an 8-4 win over the Yellowstone Quake. Russians Vadim Zubkov and Misha Akatnov each scored a hat trick for the hosts.
The Jr. Bruins, who will open a three-game playoff series at Helena next Friday, jumped to a 3-1 lead in the first period against the Quake. Zubkov and Akatnov led the charge.
Yellowstone (5-39-2) drew first blood when Jack Harris scored on assists from Dylan Rumpke and Will Yates. Zubkov answered for the Jr. Bruins midway through the opening period, scoring on a feed from Akatnov.
Akatnov scored roughly 4 minutes later on assists from Wyatt Ploot and Vladimir Chinikaylo. Then Zubkov scored on the power play 45 seconds later with a helper by Trevor Prince.
Harris scored his second goal against Missoula goalie Josh Sample midway through the second period, shaving Yellowstone's deficit to 3-2. That prompted the Jr. Bruins to lift Sample in favor of Seth Daniel.
Akatnov and Zubkov each scored in the final 8 minutes of the second period and the hosts took a 5-3 lead into the third period.
The Quake cut its deficit to 5-4 on a Brendyn Hewitt goal early in the third period. Missoula answered with an insurance goal by Ty Dittman with just under 10 minutes left, assisted by Austin Leadbetter and John Bannon. Akatnov and Bannon later added goals.
Missoula will close out its regular season with a home game against Yellowstone Saturday night. The Jr. Bruins are assured of at least one home playoff game — they'll host the Helena Bighorns in Game 2 of their best-of-3 series next Saturday night.