The NAHL North Division has been tight all season.
The Michigan Warriors made it just a bit more interesting on Friday night.
Michigan used Jon Farkas’ third-period goal and a strong performance by netminder Trevor Gorsuch to edge the Johnstown Tomahawks 2-1 at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
The Warriors moved into a tie for second place in the North Division with the Tomahawks.
“It’s definitely a must,” Johnstown coach Jason Spence said of tonight’s 7 p.m. rematch between the teams at the War Memorial. “This was a game that we had to win, and obviously (tonight) is just that much more important now.”
A crowd of 2,724 watched as the Tomahawks outshot the Warriors 29-23 but couldn’t finish good scoring opportunities or convert any of Johnstown’s four power-play opportunities.
The Tomahawks weren’t whistled for any penalties, a rarity at any level of hockey.
“We came out well and then it looked like we didn’t have enough jump,” Spence said. “We were slower on the decision making. I don’t know what the chances were for one team or the other, but we have to be better.
“We have to play 60 minutes. We can’t play hard for spots of the game.”
The Warriors snapped a rough stretch against Johnstown.
The Tomahawks had won four of the first six meetings in the season series, including a two-game sweep on Dec. 30 and New Year’s Eve at the War Memorial.
Spence’s team was 4-1-1 all time at home against the Warriors prior to Friday.
“When both these teams play, both teams are pretty close matched up, and you know it’s going to be a good, tight-checking hockey game,” Michigan coach Moe Mantha said.
Five of the teams’ seven games against each other have been decided by one goal.
Johnstown’s Josh Bowes put the home team in front with his fourth goal at 4:21 of the first. Tyler Basham assisted.
But Michigan’s Joshua Shellman tied it at 17:12 of the opening period. There were no first-period penalties.
Neither team scored in the second.
Farkas has a knack for finding the net against Johnstown. He proved as much 2:23 into the third period, as he snapped a shot that went into the top corner of the cage for the eventual game-winner.
“(Farkas) was just above the goal line when he shot the puck,” Spence said. “I don’t know if it handcuffed Alex Okicki, but it just went in the top right-hand corner.”
Farkas has four goals in seven games against the Tomahawks.
“He’s a power forward that likes going into the corners and likes going to the net,” Mantha said. “He’s got a quick, sneaky shot. That goal he got was a good timed goal for us, just going down the wing and just firing it.”
Both coaches pointed to Michigan’s penalty kill unit as a key to the outcome.
“When we had our feet moving, we were OK,” Spence said of the power play. “But it’s a credit to their penalty kill. They pressured us very hard. The puck wasn’t really settling for us. We weren’t making enough hockey plays.”
Mantha said the Warriors put in extra time and saw the benefits.
“We had two weeks when we didn’t play, and we had a bye weekend,” Mantha said. “We spent a good eight days working on our special teams. We’ve settled things down and have more structure.”
Notes: Tomahawks goaltender Okicki stopped 21 of 23 shots. Michigan’s Gorsuch had 28 saves. … Mantha said he hoped to get an autographed Jason Spence bobblehead after Friday’s special promotional giveaway. … The Tomahawks are 12-7-1 at home. Michigan is 7-7-5 on the road.
The NAHL North Division has been tight all season.
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