The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

July 16, 2013

Tomahawks will open with Port Huron

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Tomahawks will face a quirky – and trying – schedule in their second season in the North American Hockey League.

The slate, which was released on Monday evening, opens Sept. 14 with the Tomahawks hosting the same team that ended their inaugural season – the Port Huron Fighting Falcons. The Tomahawks opened last season at Port Huron and fell to the Fighting Falcons in the NAHL playoffs.

Coach Jason Spence’s team then heads to Blaine, Minn., for four games at the NAHL Showcase. That portion of the schedule, which includes a date with the defending champion Amarillo Bulls, was released earlier this month.

“It’s great,” Spence said of early season schedule. “I think it’s great that we’re opening at home on the 14th of September. Then we go away to Blaine in front of all those college scouts out there. I think that’s amazing.”

The Tomahawks play 11 consecutive home games from Oct. 24 to Nov. 23, but only have two games at Cambria County War Memorial Arena from Nov. 24 to Jan. 18.

And those two aren’t on weekend dates, as the Tomahawks host Michigan on Dec. 30 and 31.

“Whatever you get for your schedule, you build around it,” Spence said. “We’re going to have to be road warriors when we’re on the road, and when we’re at home, you’ve got to be homers. You build up that anticipation for road trips. And when you get back home, it’s that much more rewarding.”

The unbalanced schedule features 12 games each against North Division opponents Michigan, Port Huron and Soo. Springfield and Janesville are the only other teams in the division after Jamestown and Kalamazoo stopped operations, but the Tomahawks only play Springfield eight times.

They only face Janesville four times.

Yet Johnstown plays out-of-division Wenatchee eight times this season, as the Tomahawks will travel to Washington State for a second consecutive season. This time Spence’s team will play at Wenatchee on back-to-back weekends.

“It’ll be a great series,” Spence said of the time in Washington. “You can unpack your suit bag and practice on their ice during the week and take advantage of it and try to make it your own.”

The Wild will come to Johnstown in November and February, meaning the Tomahawks play a combined nine games against the teams that played for the Robertson Cup.

“That’s the best way to set the bar for yourself,” Spence said. “The better teams you play – you play up to your opponents. You really welcome the challenge.”

The Tomahawks’ final home game of the regular season is March 23, when they host Soo. They close out the regular season at Janesville on March 29.

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