Pryotechnics, flaming blue lines, a packed house and hockey legend Mario Lemieux.
All that was missing from the NAHL’s debut Saturday night at Cambria County War Memorial Arena was a Johnstown Tomahawks win.
Despite a 3-2 shootout loss to the Michigan Warriors, the Tomahawks (1-3-3) treated a crowd of 3,721 to a dazzling home debut filled with all of the elements sure to please most hockey fans in the region.
It will take a little more to please the team’s coach.
“The guys worked really hard,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said. “But we killed ourselves with turnovers. Every chance (Michigan) had was a turnover. We take care of the puck a little better, that’s our two points.”
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Michigan (2-4-0) took home the win after topping Johnstown 3-0 in the shootout. A.J. Marcinek, Brock Labelle and Zack Szajner each sent pucks past Johnstown’s Chris Truehl during the shootout.
Warriors goaltender Michael Pesendorfer turned away all three shots he faced in the shootout, while stopping 23 shots in 65 minutes.
It wasn’t the best first impression made by the team, but the experience of playing in a packed house possibly eased the pain of getting just one point for Cody Boyd, a Johnstown native and son of former Chiefs bruiser Rick Boyd – the club’s general manager.
“It felt great except for the fact that we lost,” Cody Boyd said.
“Coming out to our screaming fans and hearing everybody I hadn’t heard in five years. It was a great time, just wish it went the other way.”
Johnstown’s Brandon Reinholz tallied the team’s first goal on home ice at 10:24 of the second with help from defenseman Cody Bentzel.
Reinholz further endeared himself to the Johnstown faithful later in the second when he dropped the gloves with Michigan’s Garrett Prochazka, dropping the Warriors forward with a single punch.
Reinholz then skated toward the penalty box while receiving one of the night’s loudest cheers.
“Beginner’s luck, it felt good,” Reinholz said of the fight. “It was nice to get the fans into it and get a little momentum going our way.”
Michigan equalized at 15:14 of the second when Jake Hopfner poked a rebound underneath Truehl. Colin Larkin and Luke Rendino notched assists on Hopfner’s first.
Johnstown quickly regained the lead at 17:27 on Cobi Smith-Mass’ second goal of the season. Bentzel – a 6-foot-3, 225-pound defenseman, tallied his second assist of the night.
Smith-Mass appeared to put the game away around eight minutes into the third when he redirected a puck past Pesendorfer. The goal was quickly waved off by referee Jonathon Paradise due to Johnstown contact with Pesendorfer in the crease.
“I didn’t see the goal that was disallowed,” Spence said.
“I asked the referee, ‘What happened?’ He said that we interfered with the goaltender. I want to see it on tape.”
Connor Lyons, with help from Hopfner, pushed across the Warriors’ second game-tying goal at 16:51 of the third.