The Johnstown Tomahawks are playing so well that a sellout crowd at Cambria County War Memorial Arena expected a miracle finish on Saturday night.
Indeed, the Tomahawks twice came tantalizingly close to netting a game-tying goal in the closing seconds against the first-place Jamestown (N.Y.) Ironmen.
But Ironmen goaltender Reid Mimmack prevented the home team from scripting a perfect ending to an otherwise wildly successful weekend. Mimmack’s 37-save shutout led the Ironmen over the Hawks 1-0 in front of 3,725 fans.
“It’s a great team they have here, so it was nice to get another shot at them,” said Mimmack, who allowed five goals and was pulled 8 minutes into the final period in a 5-0 loss to the Tomahawks a night earlier. “I was pretty disappointed with the way I played (Friday) night. They are always tough to play against, especially here in front of this crowd.”
Nicholas Sierra scored the game’s lone goal 8:11 into the third period, creating an unconventional goodwill gesture.
Saturday’s game included the popular Teddy Bear Toss to benefit Toys for Tots. As part of a tradition started here by the ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs, fans toss new toys and Teddy Bears onto the ice after the home team’s first goal.
Tomahawks Director of Business Operations Jean Desrochers said this year’s event received an anonymous boost from someone who donated 3,500 small Teddy Bears for fans to toss – a gift that complemented the large number of stuffed animals ticket holders brought to the game.
After two scoreless periods, a few fans jumped at the opportunity presented by Sierra’s finally breaking the shutout.
A handful of Teddy Bears were tossed onto the ice after the goal. Public address announcer Al Steele requested that fans wait until the home team scored to toss their toys.
Then, suddenly hundreds of stuffed animals were thrown onto the ice.
“It is for the home team, and it’s great they do this type of event for charity,” Mimmack said. “It was interesting to see the Teddy Bears coming down when we scored. But in the end, someone had to score and it just so happened that we did.”
In the spirit of the season, the Tomahawks began playing the traditional music to accompany the clean-up effort by staff and U.S. Marines. Fifteen minutes later, play resumed.
“People make mistakes and people get on board,” said Tomahawks coach Jason Spence, who had been through his share of Teddy Bear Tosses during his career with the Chiefs. “That stuff happens. … As long as it’s for a good cause.”
The Tomahawks put the pressure on Mimmack throughout the game, but especially in the third period when the home team outshot Jamestown 12-7.
“I just stuck with what I knew and stayed calm,” Mimmack said. “I was just trying to take it one shot at a time, one period at a time. I think that’s what made the difference. I wasn’t trying to think too much into the future whereas (Friday) I was thinking about the third period and what was going to happen.”
Johnstown dropped five points behind Jamestown in the North Division. The Tomahawks are 15-8-6 with an 8-4-2 home mark.
“The effort was there,” Spence said. “We made some mental errors. We could’ve taken care of the puck a little bit better.
“Hat’s off to Mimmack,” Spence added. “He played a great game. Sometimes you get a little frustrated and try to make it too perfect. We had some chances to score, and we didn’t. They won and we lost.”
Tomahawks goaltender Collin Brennan was strong in net, making 30 saves a night after he recorded the first shutout in Tomahawks history.
Johnstown has won eight of its past 10 games.
The Tomahawks attracted 7,113 fans over two nights that saw the infamous Hanson Brothers visit on Friday and Penguins Matt Cooke and Chris Kunitz, Santa Claus and the Stanley Cup show up on Saturday.
“Huge weekend,” Spence said. “Our fans are fantastic. We had almost 3,800 people here for us. The Teddy Bear Toss. The Penguins were here. The Stanley Cup was here. You couldn’t have a better atmosphere. The only thing that could have been better is if we ended up on top.”
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