The Johnstown Chiefs’ welcome home party won’t be fun and games.
The Chiefs return from a seven-game road trip that included six outings in Nevada and California only to face one of the top teams in the ECHL tonight at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
The Reading Royals are tied for first place in the North Division with 25 points. Reading is 12-3-1 overall and 8-2-0 in the past 10 games.
The Royals snatched two league awards on Thursday, as goaltender Cody Rudkowsky (6-1-0, 1.72, .943 last month) was named Saver of the Month and forward Greg Hogeboom (3-12-15, 11 games) was tabbed Rookie of the Month for November.
“Reading and Las Vegas are probably the best teams we’ve seen so far,” said coach Frank Anzalone, whose Chiefs went 3-2-2 on the road trip and are 6-9-6 overall. “They’re three lines deep. They have guys that can check and guys that can score.”
Reading had a seven-game winning streak snapped by Dayton on Dec. 2, but rebounded with a 5-3 win over Toledo.
The Chiefs (18 points) have overcome a dismal 0-6-4 start by going 6-3-2 in the past 11 games and only are three points behind fourth-place Toledo (21), four back of third-place Trenton (22) and seven from first-place Wheeling (25) and Reading.
Johnstown’s only other meeting with Reading was a 3-2 loss in the home opener on Oct. 22.
“I thought we played very well against Reading, but we just didn’t have enough to get it done,” Anzalone said. “We made a really bad turnover late in that game. It will be a good challenge for us, a good test to see where we’re at.”
The Chiefs lineup has been rattled by injuries, but Anazlone said some players might return.
“We might have Paul Caponigri back. We’re not sure,” the coach said. “He skated and said his knee felt better. I don’t think we’re going to see Mike Egener or Jason Spence.”
Spence, the Chiefs’ captain, has been sidelined by a nagging ankle injury. He resumed skating this week and is almost ready.
“My ankle feels really, really good. I skated the last three days,” Spence said. “I think it’s good enough to play this weekend. But I came back twice already this year too early. The trainer and coach think that I only had one practice with the team and they want me to skate through the weekend where I can get some extra skating in to see if it’s going to hold up.”
Forward Steve Cygan had difficulty breathing after being hit in the throat during a Sunday game at San Diego. The 5-foot, 6-inch speedster returned Tuesday at Las Vegas and took another nasty hit.
“Cygan, we were really concerned with the problem with the neck on Sunday. He couldn’t breathe,” Anzalone said. “They took him to the hospital and said he was fine. Then he got hurt again on Tuesday. Steve is such a competitor. He doesn’t stay away from anything. These big guys are moving forward to him and he’s kind of in the way at a short range. But it’s a credit to Steve. He’s very persistent.”
Notes: The Chiefs in conjunction with Cool 101.5 FM and the United States Marine Corps will hold the annual Toys for Tots Toy Toss during Saturday’s home game against Dayton. Fans are encouraged to bring a new stuffed toy to the game to be tossed on the ice when the Chiefs score their first goal. In the past five seasons, Johnstown fans have tossed more than 10,000 toys onto the ice.
Mike Mastovich can be reached at 532-5083 or email@example.com.
The Johnstown Chiefs’ welcome home party won’t be fun and games.
Bengals make low offer to Hawkins
Johnstown’s Andrew Hawkins grew up with the Cincinnati Bengals while following his older brother Artrell Hawkins Jr.’s NFL career.
The younger Hawkins could see himself wearing a Bengals uniform and playing wide receiver in Cincinnati for years to come. But the Bishop McCort High School graduate knows the business side of the NFL sometimes gets in the way of the storybook ending.
Liriano sharp in Pirates victory over Rays
Russell Martin homered for the third time this spring and drove in four runs to lead Francisco Liriano and the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 10-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.
Martin had an RBI single during a six-run first inning against Rays starter Matt Moore and added a three-run homer off Grant Balfour in the fourth.
McCutchen leads Pirates offense in loss to Twins
Andrew McCutchen homered, doubled and singled Friday for the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 6-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
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Pirates, Jays rained out
The Toronto Blue Jays' spring training game at the Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out Thursday.
The game will not be made up.
Pirates rough up Blue Jays’ Morrow
Brandon Morrow allowed five runs and six hits over three innings in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 6-4 loss Wednesday to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Morrow was making his second appearance since a season-ending forearm injury last May. On Feb. 28, the right-hander gave up two hits and one run in two relief innings.
Steelers sign Polamalu, cut Foote
Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller are doing their part to help the Pittsburgh Steelers get under the 2014 salary cap.
The eight-time Pro Bowl safety and the venerable tight end both signed new three-year contracts with the team on Wednesday designed to give the Steelers some cap relief before the new league year begins next week.
Pens pick up pair of forwards
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General manager Ray Shero believes the little ripples his team made instead can be just as effective as the franchise pursues its fourth Stanley Cup.
Penguins snap out of slump
Matt Niskanen scored his second goal of the game 7:29 into the third period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 on Tuesday night to snap a three-game skid.
Niskanen and the Penguins helped ruin the return of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne in his first game since Oct. 22 following an E. coli infection in his surgically repaired left hip.
Morton throws three scoreless innings in Pirates victory
Charlie Morton allowed one hit in three scoreless innings, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.
Morton did not strike out a batter, but he kept Detroit off the bases during his short stint, aside from Don Kelly’s second-inning double.
Alvarez, Martin hit two-run shots in Bucs’ win
Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin hit two-run homers off Brandon Workman, who started in place of injured Jake Peavy, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Boston Red Sox 7-6 Monday.
Pittsburgh leadoff batter Starling Marte reached on an infield single in the first that stopped an 0-for-9 start, and Alvarez homered to right off Workman with two outs.
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