The Tomahawks had seen their share of pucks hit the post or bounce in the wrong direction by an inch or two this weekend.
Johnstown also had to contend with the mostly stellar play of Michigan goaltender Trevor Gorsuch for two nights.
So, when the ’Hawks finally broke through with a three-goal third period, a collective sigh of relief probably was felt on the home bench and throughout a crowd of 3,304 fans at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
“It’s a big relief,” said Tomahawks forward Jaycob McCombs, who scored his team’s final two goals, including the game-winner in a 3-2 victory over the Warriors. “We’ve got a really hard-working, blue-collar team. We were close (in Friday’s 3-1 loss) but we hit a couple posts and couldn’t find the back of the net. Coach keeps telling us to keep working hard and they’re going to start to fall.”
Michigan led 1-0 after Connor Lyons scored high on goalie Chris Truehl’s glove side 2:40 into the second period.
Truehl later stopped a penalty shot by Michigan’s Zack Szajner at 13:25 of the second to give the Tomahawks a lift.
“Huge,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said. “A huge, huge stop.”
Truehl challenged Szajner and countered the Warriors player’s move before going down on the ice in a backward motion to squeeze the puck before it went through his five-hole.
“You’ve got to come out and challenge him and not just back up and hope you can read it right,” Truehl said. “That one, I was able to read it. It didn’t go in. I’ll take it.
“He went wide of me, so I thought I’d extend. He went back to my five-hole, so I had to turn and cover it so it couldn’t go in the net.”
The large crowd on Johnstown Hockey Heritage Night appreciated the effort. So did Truehl’s teammates.
“That was a big turning point, absolutely the turning point,” McCombs said.
In the final period, Johnstown’s Cody Gylling positioned himself just outside the crease and beat Gorsuch at 4:40 to tie the game with the power-play goal.
McCombs made it 2-1 just over two minutes later. But Michigan, which had won four straight over the Tomahawks and five times overall, wouldn’t go away. AJ Marcinek converted a power play to make it 2-all at 12:55.
McCombs netted the eventual game-winner at 15:03.
“(Tomahawks defenseman) Ian Spencer was coming down the right wing and he took a shot a little wide,” McCombs said. “It hit the end boards and popped out to the left side of the net. I took a quick glance at the goalie and saw he wasn’t really set yet.
“I tried to throw it in there and get it somewhere to the five-hole. I think it hit his left skate and trickled in between his legs.”
The win capped a night that began with Johnstown Jets legend Don Hall – wearing a blue Jets No. 9 jersey – dropping the ceremonial first puck. Tomahawk players Cody Boyd and Corey Schafer took the faceoff.
Boyd is a Richland product, and Schafer played at Westmont Hilltop.
Area high school and youth hockey players filled the ice for the pregame event, and a Johnstown hockey history display was situated in the large room behind Section 9.
“It feels great,” Spence said. “It was a big letdown (on Friday). It is a big relief. The big thing is we get to take this big period into this week. There were some guys who were obviously frustrated after Friday night (when the Tomahawks lost to Michigan despite taking 48 shots on goal).
“They all knew they had worked real hard and didn’t get rewarded. Tonight. we got that reward. It didn’t come until late and we had a lot of frustration.”