The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

September 14, 2013

Tomahawks look to build on first season’s success

JOHNSTOWN — Cambria County War Memorial Arena will rock again tonight.

The boys are back in town.

The Johnstown Tomahawks, Chapter II, begins at 7:30 p.m. against the Port Huron Fighting Falcons.

Actually, the city’s diehard fans can get an early start at 5 p.m. as HockeyFest begins with a number of activities and entertainment on Napoleon Street in front of the arena.

“I expect that the nerves will be there,” said Tomahawks coach Jason Spence, who led Johnstown to a 27-21-4-8 record and playoff berth during its inaugural North American Hockey League season. “It will be an exciting atmosphere with everything going on from Bill Guerin to the crowd and the HockeyFest, everything all wrapped into one.”

Former Penguins Stanley Cup winner Bill Guerin will drop the ceremonial first puck, following the lead of Penguins owner and Hall of Fame player Mario Lemieux, who dropped the disc before last year’s home opener.

The Tomahawks quickly became a hit in the arena and throughout the community, attracting 75,830 fans during 30 home dates, an average of 2,527, fifth-best in the NAHL. There were 11 crowds of 3,000 or more fans, including seven sellouts.

“The fans help a great deal,” Spence said. “We have to play the game inside the glass, though. We can’t be starry-eyed looking at all the people.

“The players want to succeed not only for themselves but also for the fans,” added Spence, himself a fan favorite as a rugged forward for the Johnstown Chiefs in the ECHL. “You can’t grip your stick too tight. You’ve got to relax and let it happen.”

General Manager Rick Boyd, Spence and assistant coach Mike Letizia have assembled a solid team for the second season.

Four of last season’s top-six scorers return this year. That foursome accounted for 62 goals and 140 points in 2012-13.

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