The Johnstown Tomahawks’ second-period surge enabled the home team to pull even with the Soo Eagles on Saturday night.
But a number of near misses in the third period, and a fortuitous Soo bounce led the Eagles past Johnstown 4-3 in front of 2,352 fans at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
“In between periods we got all together and realized we had to pick it up because we weren’t playing very well,” said Tomahawks forward Joe Drabin, who netted two goals in the middle period to tie the game at 3-all. He nearly had the hat trick on two other solid scoring chances.
“We came together as a team and picked it up,” Drabin said.
Soo won two of three games during the series, with Eagles goaltender Colin Brennan and Johnstown’s Alex Okicki trading shutouts Thursday and Friday, respectively, at the War Memorial.
The Tomahawks had their opportunities to take the series on Saturday, but Soo’s Mike Sabatini netted the only goal of the final period with 5:05 remaining.
“We started good and we had a little bit of a lapse in the first,” Johnstown coach Jason Spence said. “The second period, we committed to doing all the little things we need to do to bring us success. The third we were working hard, but things weren’t really going our way.
“We were holding onto the puck a little bit too long and trying to be too cute. We were getting the pucks to the Grade A areas to score but we weren’t getting the shots off. We need to shoot the puck more. We need to shoot the puck with authority.”
The Tomahawks’ Trevor Recktenwald netted his first goal of the season 3:51 into the game. The 6-foot-2 forward worked the crease and jumped on a loose puck with former Tomahawks goaltender Brennan out of position. He hit the open net for a 1-0 lead.
Just over a minute later, Jacob McDowell tied the score at 5:00. Denver Pierce roofed another goal 59 seconds later to make it 2-1, capping a series of three goals scored in 2:08.
Ryan Urso converted a 5-on-3 power play at 15:53 and the Eagles led 3-1 at intermission.
Drabin pulled Johnstown within 3-2 at 4:05 of the second. Brandon Reinholz assisted.
About 3 minutes later, Urso, the Eagles captain, was ejected for using an ethnic slur.
At 10:05, Drabin tied the game by tipping in a shot by defenseman Mitch Hall. Brady Bender also assisted.
After the game, Urso waited at least 10 minutes outside the Tomahawks locker room to apologize to Johnstown forward Omar Mullan.
Urso later waited for Spence to finish speaking to college recruiters and players.
The Soo player then asked to speak to Spence about the incident.
Spence said he accepted Urso’s apology, saying the incident was out of character.
“In the heat of the battle things happen,” Spence said. “You want to get the better of somebody else. It must’ve slipped out. He feels awful about it right now. Maybe it will be a life lesson for the future.”
Sabatini put a damper on the Tomahawks’ comeback with assists from McDowell and Jeremy Norway.
“The key was to continue playing the way we did in the second period,” Drabin said. “We just got an unlucky bounce for their goal.
“It went off someone’s skate. There’s nothing you can do about that late in the game. We tried to battle back. We just couldn’t do it.”
Brennan had 26 saves, and Okicki stopped 20 shots.
“We fought hard, but we lost,” Spence said.