The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 21, 2013

Tomahawks on hot streak for weekend games

Mike Mastovich
mmastovich@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Tomahawks tonight will face a North Division-leading Port Huron team with only two regulation losses this NAHL season.

The North’s third-place Tomahawks also had been on a hot streak, winning four straight prior to a disappointing setback to Wenatchee last Saturday.

“They’re a good team. They’re really opportunistic,” Johnstown coach Jason Spence said of the 15-2-4 Fighting Falcons. “They create odd-man rushes and are very offensive. We’ll have to be aware of the opponent. I think we match up pretty good. We beat them the last time they were in here, and they beat us the night before that one.

“We need to come out real hard in the first game and take that same approach the rest of the weekend.”

The Tomahawks edged the Fighting Falcons 4-3 in overtime on Nov. 3 at the War Memorial. A night earlier, Port Huron beat the Hawks 4-1.

Including a two-game sweep over visiting Johnstown during opening weekend, the Fighting Falcons are 3-0-1 against Spence’s team this season.

The trend dates to last season, as Port Huron has an all-time 11-3-1 mark against Johnstown, including 7-1-1 at Cambria County War Memorial Arena, site of tonight’s 7:30 game and a 7 p.m. rematch on Saturday.

“We were behind in that last game, but we played really well and beat them in overtime,” Spence said. “We outshot them something like 45-18.”

Shane Bednard’s overtime tally provided a lift that started a four-game winning streak.

“We have to make sure we’re tight because defense creates offense,” Spence said. “We need to make sure we take care of our own end. The offense starts from there.”

The Tomahawks split a pair of games against Wenatchee last weekend, with Friday’s 6-5 win labeled a thriller, and Saturday’s 5-1 loss considered one of the season’s most disappointing efforts.

“We had a good week of practice. We had a real disappointing game on Saturday, but we won four in a row before that,” Spence said. “You can’t be satisfied. You have to build on it. Saturday was a setback. That’s how you have to treat it. That is behind us now and we have to work on the future.”

Brandon Reinholz leads the Tomahawks with 21 points, including 10 goals. Omar Mullan has 16 points this season, including 14 with Johnstown. Bednard has 15 points.

Spence said goaltender Alex Okicki will start tonight. He is 8-5-0 with a 2.45 goals against average and .907 save percentage. Jake Moore started both games last weekend and has a 2-1-0 record with a 3.98 GAA and .880 save percentage.

“We have real good goaltending,” Spence said. “That’s not an issue. I’m comfortable with what we have. They’re all real good kids and they all play hard for their team.”

Port Huron is led by Mitch Maloney’s 19 points and 11 goals. Zach Badalamenti has 18 points, and Logan Lambdin and Bryan Yim each have 15 points.

Goaltender Alex Blankenburg is 9-0-0 with a 1.25 GAA and .955 save percentage, and Max Milosek is 6-2-4 with a 2.94 average and .909 save percentage.

Spence is confident the 12-9-1 Tomahawks will resemble the team that had won four in a row more so than the one that fell flat against Wenatchee on Saturday.

“We were able to support the puck. We worked very hard. We helped each other during that streak,” Spence said. “We created opportunities out of simple plays and real hard work. We were sticking to the game plan.

“On games like last Saturday, maybe sometimes when you have a little bit of success you do some things on your own and you forget what got you that success.”

Notes: After this weekend, the Tomahawks won’t be at home again until Dec. 30-31. The team will continue the Johnstown hockey holiday tradition of the Teddy Bear Toss during Saturday night’s game against the Falcons. Fans are asked to toss a new stuffed animal onto the ice after the Tomahawks’ first goal. The items will be donated to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. ... The Tomahawks are 8-6-1 at the War Memorial this season. ... Johnstown has been solid in extra time, posting a 1-0 overtime mark and a 3-1 shootout record. ... The Hawks’ power play ranks 17th (11.7 percent) and the penalty kill ranks 20th (80.5). Port Huron ranks fifth on the power play (19.1) and 13th on the PK (85.4). ... The Fighting Falcons are 9-2-2 on the road. ... The Tomahawks’ 2,279 average attendance ranks third in the 24-team NAHL.