BY ETHAN BLOUGH
A three-goal deficit for two periods proved too much for the Johnstown Tomahawks to overcome on Saturday at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
A spirited, two-goal third period still left the hosts short in a 3-2 loss to the Jamestown Ironmen.
“We kind of put ourselves in a big hole to try and dig out of,” Johnstown coach Jason Spence said.
The Tomahawks needed just one point to clinch a playoff spot, but will have to wait a couple weeks to earn that point in one of their final four road games of the season.
“We let a lot of chances kind of get away from us,” Spence said. “We had 22 attempted shots in the second period and we only had 11 on net. We had five or six blocked and five or six miss the net.”
Jamestown’s Luc Gerdes silenced the raucous sellout crowd after scoring 5:00 into the first period on a nice pass from Evan Ritt. Ironmen forward Ross Pavek scored his 11th of the season with 3:43 left in the first frame.
Though the visitors led for 55 minutes of the game, neither team was able to really get into the flow.
The two teams combined for 52 penalty minutes in each of the first two periods (and 106 minutes total), resulting in a tangible lack of flow on the ice.
The Tomahawks never gave up, scoring 2:32 into the third period on a nice goal by forward Andrew McDonald. Just after a power play ended, McDonald streaked down the right wing boards and fired a shot on the ice through the five hole of Jamestown goaltender Joe Ballmer.
“He made about three highlight-reel saves,” Jamestown coach Dan Daikawa said of his goaltender. “He gives us an opportunity to win every time he’s in the net.”
Ballmer had a stellar night between the pipes, stopping 30 of 32 shots – including 14 in the third. He wasn’t alone in the shot-blocking category for the visitors.
“They were blocking a lot … we’ve got to do a better job of stepping aside and shooting in traffic,” Spence said. “There were a lot of rebounds and goals that we left on the ice that we’d like to have back.”
Johnstown’s J.B. Baker kept the Tomahawks in the game, scoring the contest’s final tally with 8:09 left.
“We got lucky, they came and threw everything at us,” Daikawa said. “They have a really good team and they continued to come wave after wave. Really, at the end, we got lucky.”
Daikawa talked about his team’s dedication resulting in the close win.
“We talk about commitment on our team a lot,” he said. “And that’s really what it comes down to. You have to sacrifice the body, and we were. At the end, we’re diving to block shots and that’s what you have to do.”
Notes: Saturday night’s game marked the seventh sellout for the Tomahawks during their inaugural season. Johnstown is 0-7 in home sellouts. … Prior to puck drop, The Tomahawks awarded seven players their eight team awards: Offensive player of the year, Cody Gylling; defensive player of the year and fan favorite, Jesse Kessler; rookie of the year, Brandon Reinholz; most improved player, J.B. Baker; unsung hero, Jake Fairchild; community service award, Chris Truehl; most valuable player, Mitch Kontny.