KALAMAZOO, Mich. —
The Johnstown Tomahawks officially are in the NAHL playoffs.
And even though Johnstown clinched a Robertson Cup playoff berth with a 3-2 road victory at Kalamazoo, Tomahawks President Rick Bouchard said the team’s hometown fans had a huge role in the milestone event.
“I’m really happy for the City of Johnstown,” said Bouchard during a telephone interview from Kalamazoo, Mich., after Saturday afternoon’s win. “The fans and the city have supported us all year long and they helped us get here.
“We wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for the great support of the community. The Tomahawks have been the talk of the league all year because of the support we get.”
Johnstown’s Brandon Reinholz scored with 1:12 left in regulation to seal the win. Goaltender Chris Truehl had 30 saves for the ’Hawks.
The Tomahawks and Junior K-Wings will meet again at 2 p.m. today.
Johnstown then will play two more road games on Friday and Saturday at Jamestown, N.Y., to close the regular season.
The Tomahawks held the fourth spot in the North Division after Saturday’s victory.
The top six teams in the North advance to the postseason. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds each will have a first-round bye.
Sault Ste. Marie has the first seed, and Jamestown is in the second spot. Kalamazoo already has clinched the third seed.
The No. 3 team in the North will face No. 6. The No. 4 will meet No. 5. Both will be best-of-3 series early in April.
Bouchard feels it will be important for the Tomahawks to finish strong and maintain that fourth playoff position.
“Because of travel, the team with the higher seed will get the first two games in the best-of-3 at home,” Bouchard said. “If we finish fourth, we would have the first two home games in Johnstown. If we finish fifth, we would go on the road for the first two games.
“It would be nice for the town and the team to have those first two games in Johnstown with the fans that supported us. If we could hang onto fourth, it would be fantastic.”
Ian Spencer and Jeff Bergh each scored a goal for the Tomahawks. Jake Fairchild had two assists. Cody Gylling, Andrew McDonald and Jaycob McCombs also had assists.
Johnstown had 35 shots on goal.
Kalamazoo’s Patrick Spellacy and Robbie Payne each had goals.
“This is very important for the organization. We’re proud of the players and the coaching staff,” Bouchard said.
The Tomahawks president said he sensed that the players might have been placing addition pressure on themselves in recent days. The team addressed the matter on Friday.
“We all went out together as a team Friday night. We relaxed a bit,” Bouchard said. “I told them, ‘Let’s lock it down this weekend, get some momentum and get into the playoffs.’
“They were really, really happy in the locker room after the win. I think they were really happy for Coach (Jason) Spence and Coach (Mike) Letizia. I think they wanted to do it for them.”
Three games remain in the regular season, but Bouchard is hoping Tomahawks fans already have playoff fever.
“As part of the ownership group I’m really excited for Johnstown,” he said. “This has been a fun year and this is only the beginning of it. I’m really proud of them.”