Forest Donovan’s first goal as a Johnstown Tomahawk put his team back in the game against first-place Port Huron and set into motion the annual Teddy Bear Toss at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
“It was an amazing feeling, a monkey off the back,” said Donovan, who appeared in his fourth game with Johnstown. “To do it in front of our fans was great.”
Zach Wallace and goaltender Alex Okicki provided the late drama in a 3-2 overtime shootout victory.
Wallace used a couple moves to score the decisive goal in the shootout. With the one-goal advantage in the extra session, Okicki aggressively dove to smother the Fighting Falcons’ final shootout attempt before forward Noah Batis could take a clean shot.
“I love shootouts,” said Okicki, who is 10-5-0 overall and is perfect in three shootouts. “That was my third time doing that (lunge toward the skater) this year and it’s only really failed me once.
“It’s almost a mind game. You see that his head’s down. You go. Other than that, you’ve got to stay calm.”
Johnstown moved into sole possession of second place in the NAHL North Division.
The Tomahawks (14-9-1) swept a pair from Port Huron (15-3-5) to close within six points of the top spot (35-29) in the North. Johnstown passed Michigan (11-7-6, 28 points), which began the night in second but lost 4-2 to Wenatchee.
“It was a huge win, a group effort,” Okicki said. “It was even better to get the four points, the sweep and second place. We’re climbing up on them.”
Port Huron’s Mitch Maloney put the Tomahawks in a two-goal hole by scoring his 12th and 13th goals of the season, once in the first period and again in the second. Jonathan Kopacka and Bryan Yim assisted on both goals.
“We came out slow in the first but we came together as a team and really battled back for it,” Wallace said. “It’s two good teams going at it. It’s going to be a good game when you’ve got two good teams going at it.”
Donovan gave Johnstown some life and pumped up the crowd of 1,745 with a goal at 16:08 of the second period. Joe Drabin created the opportunity.
After the puck hit the net, the fans tossed hundreds of stuffed animals and toys on the ice to benefit local children.
The Teddy Bear Toss was a huge success and an upgrade from a year ago, when the toss started prematurely after an opposing player scored.
“The puck was dumped,” Donovan said. “Drabin rushed it hard into the corner. That pressure made them cough it up right on my stick and I fired it home.”
Wallace put a rebound into an open net after Omar Mullan pressured goaltender Max Milosek during a rush in front as the final seconds of a Johnstown power play wound down.
“The defense played a hell of a game,” said Okicki, who made 31 saves. “The forwards did what they had to do to get the pucks out.”
Port Huron’s Nick Horne scored in the first round of the shootout. Tyler Basham tied it for Johnstown in the second round.
Wallace had the crowd cheering after he patiently moved through the slot, made a couple moves and put the puck past Milosek.
“It’s pretty simple. I just tried to open his legs up and it worked,” Wallace said. “I just slipped it in there.”
Okicki turned away the final four Fighting Falcons shooters.
“Going down early, we bounced back really hard,” Okicki said.