The Johnstown Tomahawks will recognize the city’s professional and amateur hockey history this weekend at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
The Michigan Warriors visit tonight and Saturday, with the latter date tabbed as Hockey Heritage Night.
“It’s mostly about celebrating over 70 years of hockey programs in Johnstown,” Tomahawks Director of Business Operations Jean Desrochers said of Saturday’s promotion.
Tomahawks coach Jason Spence is more concerned about recent history against Michigan, the last-place team in the North Division.
Johnstown played three games in as many nights in Flint, Mich., earlier this month. The Warriors won all three, with two finals in regulation and one in a shootout. Prior to that weekend, Johnstown had been on a 10-3-1 run.
“They’re a good team. They work extremely hard and apply a lot of pressure,” Spence said of the Warriors. “We went over that video and learned a lot from it.”
The fourth-place Tomahawks halted a six-game losing skid with a convincing 6-2 win over first-place Soo on Sunday at the War Memorial. The slump included a home shootout loss to Kalamazoo on New Year’s Eve followed by those three setbacks at Michigan on Jan. 4 (4-2), Jan. 5 (2-1 in a shootout) and Jan. 6 (8-1). The ‘Hawks dropped a pair at home against Port Huron, including a shootout, before bouncing back.
Michigan’s three-game winning streak over the Tomahawks represents nearly one-fourth of the Warriors’ 13 victories.
“We have to use our strengths and make sure that we’re playing with the speed that we have,” Spence said. “We want to make sure that we get into a game where we’re forcing the mistakes and not sitting back and waiting. We need to pressure.”
Johnstown’s line of Andrew McDonald, Connor Wright and Zach Wallace reunited and had the hot hand against Soo, accounting for three goals and four assists.
McDonald is second on the team with 10 goals and 20 points in 24 games with the Tomahawks.
Cody Gylling tops the statistics with 27 points, followed by McDonald, captain Mitch Kontny (24 points, four power-play goals), Casey Nelson (24 points, five power-play goals, 135 shots) and Brandon Reinholz (21 points, six power-play goals).
“Andrew McDonald really picked it up last weekend,” Spence said. “Him, Zach Wallace and Connor Wright had a great game on Sunday. We’re going to try to build off of that game and go from there.”
Goaltenders Chris Truehl (9-5-4, 2.44, .924) and Colin Brennan (6-5-4, 2.65, .908) split time in net.
The Tomahawks also had an eye to the future on Thursday, tendering two prospects. The players’ right belong to the Tomahawks for the 2013-14 season.
Johnstown General Manager Rick Boyd announced the tender offers to defenseman Shane Cuckovich and forward Trevor Recktenwald.
Cuckovich is a product of the highly-touted HoneyBaked Midget Major hockey club and Recktenwald currently plays for the Pittsburgh Viper Stars 18U team.
“They’re signed with us for next season,” Spence said.
The Hockey Heritage Night will include displays filled with memorabilia and photos of various pro and amateur hockey teams to play in Johnstown since the former Blue Birds franchise first played at Shaffer Ice Palace in 1941-42.
In addition to the pro teams such as the Chiefs, Jets, Wings and Red Wings, Desrochers said the event is intended to spotlight youth hockey.
Approximately 100 youth hockey players will join the Tomahawks on the ice prior to the ceremonial opening face-off dropped by Johnstown Jets legend Don Hall, the prolific goal-scorer whose No. 9 jersey was retired.
“I think it’s pretty special,” Spence said. “When a lot of people think of history in Johnstown, they think of hockey. It’s not the biggest town in the world, but everybody knows where it is and everybody knows the history.
“A lot of the former players are still around. Everybody remembers them. It’s special to me because I was fortunate to be a part of that history. My favorite years in hockey were playing in that building.”