At the moment, it’s not about advancing through the postseason for the Johnstown Tomahawks. It’s simply a case of surviving to play another day.
Tonight, the Tomahawks host Port Huron at 7:30 p.m. in Game 3 of the NAHL North Division best-of-5 semifinal series.
As Johnstown Tomahawks coach Jason Spence views it, tonight’s contest is a chance for the team to do one of two things.
“Our backs are against the wall,” Spence said. “We have two choices. We can either come out and fight or give up. We’re not going to give up, we haven’t done that all year.”
The Fighting Falcons – the top seed in the NAHL’s North Division – sunk the Tomahawks on back-to-back nights with late goals to surge out to the 2-0 series lead.
Jon Hall netted the game-winner in the third period of Game 1 to boost Port Huron to a 1-0 lead in the series on April 3. A night later, Elliot Tisdale notched the overtime winner to push the Tomahawks to the brink of elimination.
“They capitalize on their chances,” Spence said of Port Huron. “We can’t give them those chances.”
Goaltender Brett Young has suffered both losses for the Tomahawks, allowing seven goals over 128-plus minutes of action.
Jordan Watt is pacing Johnstown in goals with two – one in each game – during the postseason.
Now that the threat of their season ending is real, Spence notes that it’s up to everyone on the roster along with the coaching staff to come out motivated tonight.
“You have to rely on everybody,” Spence said. “It’s such a big deal. You need to have all your leaders, your coaching staff ... It doesn’t come from one person. It comes from everyone believing in you and believing in yourself.”
A week later, Spence is hoping the the change of scenery to the War Memorial will be part of the formula that extends the series against the Fighting Falcons.
“It’s going to be huge for the players,” Spence said. “It really helps. You need to believe in yourself, but when all of those other people believe in you, it helps.”
The Tomahawks went 5-5 against the division champion Fighting Falcons during the regular season.
Playing Port Huron tight during the first two games of the series is no surprise to Spence.
“Port Huron is a very good hockey team,” Spence said. “We played them into overtime in the last game, a one-goal game the game before. Those games could have gone either way. They came up with the wins.”
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/shawncurtis430.