They came oh, so close, but the Helena Bighorns ultimately couldn’t quite get over the hump, and saw their season end in a 4-3 loss at Gillette on Saturday in the NA3HL Frontier Division playoffs.
The loss, coming in the third of the best-of-three series, sends Helena home while the Wild move on to next week’s semifinals.
Helena took the early lead with a Dane Rieger goal only 3:42 into the contest. Gillette answered six minutes later and added a go-ahead goal two minutes after that.
Like was the case on Friday, there was no scoring in the second period, and also like Friday Helena got a goal only seconds into a frame. This one, in the third, came off the stick of Bradley Estrada, who had assisted on Riger’s goal earlier.
Scoring just 45 seconds in, Estrada added a second goal a mere 42 seconds after that to put Helena on top.
But Tyer Tennant managed to best Nicholas Battaglia, playing in his third game in as many nights between the pipes for the Bighorns. The game-winner, then, came at 8:56 when Charlie Gerace sent one home.
Helena pulled Battaglia late to get six skaters on the ice, but the advantage wasn’t enough to get the equalizer.
Battaglia stopped 46 of 50 shots in the loss, while Helena sent 40 shots at winning keeper Lincon Riley.