BLAINE, Minn. —
Goaltender Chris Truehl came off the bench to stop 19 shots, then was perfect in the shootout while Cody Gylling scored the goal that lifted the Johnstown Tomahawks to the first victory in team history, 6-5 over Kenai River Thursday in the NAHL Showcase at Schwan Super Rink.
“It’s a nerve-wracking way to win but there’s no better way to do it for your first win for all the guys,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said.”Everybody had to do it together. There was scoring from all the lines. We battled all the way through. I thought we outplayed them throughout the whole game but some bad bounces ended up in the back of our net.”
Gylling, Johnstown's second shooter, beat goaltender Gustaf Johansson with a backhander for the only goal of the shootout before Truehl finished off the Brown Bears (0-1-1) by stopping Zac Lazzaro. That brought the Tomahawks pouring off the bench to celebrate their historic victory.
“We had a lot of energy,” Spence said. “We played in their end for a lot of the game. The good thing is I know we still have more. We’re a new team with new systems. Everybody is really starting to get onto all of those systems. It’s a pleasure to watch as a coach.”
Johnstown (1-2-1) moved into third place in the North Division with the win and will have a chance to move past Kalamazoo and into second place Friday when it faces Austin at 8:45 p.m.
Truehl replaced starter Matthew McLaughlin at 10:55 of the second period with Johnstown trailing, 4-2. The Tomahawks responded with two goals in 2:38 to tie the game, as J.B. Baker scored his first goal of the season at 12:45 on a wrist shot through traffic from the left point and Coby Smith-Mass delivered his first goal on the rebound of a Kristaps Bazevics shot from the center point on the power play at 15:23.
“To give the team a spark I put Chris Truehl in,” Spence said. “Chris played great. He never let in one goal in the shootout. It’s tough sometimes for a goalie to come in cold. He really did his job.”
Truehl preserved that tie with a brilliant stop on Jude Warner at 18:59 of the period with Kenai River on the power play. Truehl's performance was critical on a night when the Tomahawks were outshot, 36-17, through overtime - including 27-7 over the game's final 45 minutes.
Cody Boyd put Johnstown ahead, 5-4, at 8:20 of the third period when he burst down the slot, took a pass from Codey Hansen on the right wing and beat Johansson with a wrist shot. Johansson made a big stop on Jordan Watt at 13:09 to keep it a one-goal game, and Kenai River defenseman Ryan Walker tied it with 3:23 to play in regulation with a shot from inside the center point.
Johnstown took a too many men on the ice penalty 48 seconds later but did not allow the Brown Bears a single shot on the ensuing power play.
The Tomahawks killed four of five Kenai River penalties on the night.
Bazevics had two assists in the game and now has four points (2-2-4) in three games to lead the Tomahawks in scoring.
Evan Hesse scored his first goal of the season just 52 seconds into the game off a wrist shot from the left circle, but Kenai River answered with goals 34 seconds apart by Lucas Kohls and Albin Karlsson. But the first period ended in a 2-2 tie after Johnstown defenseman Jesse Kessler scored his second goal of the season at 7:55, a wrist shot from the left point set up by some aggressive forechecking by the Tomahawks.
Kenai River broke that tie with goals 3:13 apart early in the second period by Lazzaro and Karlsson, the latter coming on the power play at 8:09.
Hesse also picked up an assist on Baker's goal to finish the game with two points. Baker finished plus-3 and Watt led Johnstown with five shots.
“It’s a big win for us buy you can’t get too high,” Spence said. “You’ve got to stay even keel, take the momentum from this game and go into the next.”