Colin Brennan had the first shutout in Johnstown Tomahawks history during the team’s inaugural North American Hockey League season last year.
Brennan backstopped the first NAHL shutout at Cambria County War Memorial Arena this NAHL season on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the Tomahawks, Brennan made his 19 saves while wearing a Soo Eagles uniform as Johnstown fell 3-0 in front of 1,087 fans.
“It’s honestly pretty special,” said Brennan, who now has two shutouts at the War Memorial in as many seasons. “I had mixed emotions coming back. I was a little disappointed when I was released here. I took it to the chin.
“I love playing in this rink. I love the fans. A couple of them still remember me, which is cool.”
The Tomahawks never got in sync offensively on Thursday. When they did, Brennan was there to make the save.
“Colin played a great game,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said. “I know he would have been really excited to play. He stopped some good shots. We weren’t the better team tonight.”
The Tomahawks fell to 7-6-1 while Soo went over .500 at 6-5-3.
Brennan improved to 3-2-0.
“I was more concerned about just getting the win,” Brennan said when asked about recording the shutout. “I feel like our team is starting to really come together now.”
Spence faced a difficult choice in releasing Brennan on Sept. 5.
Brennan and Chris Truehl had the majority of work during the Tomahawks’ first season in 2012-13. The Chester, N.J., native went 7-8-5 with a 2.78 goals against average and .906 save percentage as a Tomahawk last season.
Brennan and his then-Johnstown teammates blanked visiting Jamestown, 5-0, on Dec. 14 for the first shutout in Tomahawks history. His save total? 19.
This season, Johnstown added veteran goaltender Alex Okicki, who has played well with a 5-4-0 mark after Thursday.
The Hawks also had young prospects such as Brett Young, the current back-up, and Colin DeAugustine, who recently was a call up.
“It was extremely hard,” Spence said of releasing Brennan. “We had a 20-year-old goaltender who is playing really well (Okicki). We had youth backing us up for years to come. I don’t believe in keeping two 20-year-old goaltenders because you’ve got to look towards your future.”
Brennan realized the move was simply the business end of hockey at the Junior A Tier II level. He quickly adapted.
“After I got released from Johnstown I started to make some calls and send out some emails,” Brennan said. “(Soo) Coach Bruno (Bragagnolo) responded to my email 20 minutes later and gave me a call and said they were looking for another goalie.”
His Eagles teammates provided plenty of support Thursday. AJ Jarosz scored in the first period, Mike Sabatini converted a 5-on-3 in the second, and Jacob McDowell made it 3-0 in the third.
After the game, Brennan had a lengthy discussion with a college coach. He also greeted the Johnstown coaches and a few players in the hallway between the two lockerrooms.
“It’s a little different now because we’re on rival teams, but there are a lot of good guys over there,” Brennan said. “I wish them nothing but the best except against us.”
The Tomahawks weren’t at their best on Thursday.
Johnstown went 0 of 5 on the power play and was outshot 23-19.
“We couldn’t get anything going,” Spence said. “The power play was really slow. We took some bad penalties. Anytime we started getting anything going we’d get a power play and not do well with it or we’d get a penalty. We broke our momentum and got discouraged.
“There is no excuse for that. We’ve got to bounce back.”
The teams play at 7:30 tonight and again at 7 on Saturday at the War Memorial.