The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Tomahawks

February 16, 2014

Watt’s hat trick leads Tomahawks

BY HAYLIE HOMWAY

sports@tribdem.com

Coming off of Friday’s shutout victory over the Michigan Warriors, it was crucial that the Johnstown Tomahawks kept up the momentum Saturday at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.

The heated play from the Friday night between the two teams carried over into Saturday night’s game.

So did the Tomahawks’ hot play.

Johnstown did not disappoint its 2,987 fans in attendance, completing the weekend sweep with a 6-4 win over the Warriors.

“It was great,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said. “These are four must-have points and I’m proud of the guys for this weekend.”

The Tomahawks – after a series of saves from goaltender Alex Okicki – struck first almost 6 minutes into the game as Jordan Watt scored off of Shane Bednard and Matt Meier’s assists.

Twenty-five seconds later, the Warriors went on the power play due to Brandon Reinholtz’s penalty. It didn’t take long until  Michigan’s T.J. Stuntz got one behind Okicki to even up the score.

The Tomahawks were quick to answer the Warriors goal, with Bednard finding the back of the net less than a minute later. Meier gained his second assist of the night off of the Bednard goal.

Later into the first period, the Tomahawks struggled to keep offensive leverage, but their defensive play and goaltending held strong.

“We just go back to the basics and play defense first,” Watt said. “It’s a lot of hard work but we have to play aggressive.”

In the final minute of the period, Okicki made a beautiful save off a short-handed attempt by Michigan’s Jon Farkas to keep the Tomahawks in the lead into the end of the first.

As the second period began, the Tomahawks held their man-advantage from the Warriors’ tripping penalty. Johnstown could not capitalize however, and the penalty was killed off.

Out of the two power-play opportunities during this period, the Tomahawks struggled on both.

“We’ve been working hard on the power play for a number of weeks now,” Spence said. “We’re struggling with the possession and maintaining puck possession and getting chances produced out of it. We’re getting some chances, but we’re missing the net and not capitalizing.”

Even with the lack of power-play capitalization, the Tomahawks continued to score at full strength. Tanner Barnes put one behind Michigan’s Robbie Beydoun as the puck bounced off the goaltender’s pad, broadening the team’s lead.

Farkas scored a late-period goal with less than two minutes remaining to keep the Warriors in the game.

The Tomahawks came out red hot in the final period. Six minutes in and on the power-play, Bednard went top shelf off of Meier and Barnes’ assists to give the Tomahawks a two-goal lead. Less than two minutes later, Watt wristed in his second goal of the night to make the score 5-2.

The Warriors did not go down without a fight, as they took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play.

“We got a little bit too pretty and that doesn’t really work for us,” Spence said. “We have to make sure we’re playing hard, our style of hockey. We ended up with the result we wanted but we have to be more disciplined because we took some penalties near the end of the game that certainly didn’t help us out.”

With 9:54 left in the game, Michigan’s Colin Larkin put one behind Okicki to give the Warriors new life.

A minute later, A.J. Marcinek put in another for the Warriors to make the game close with a score of 5-4.

The pressure was on for both teams into the end of the game and the Michigan Warriors pulled their goaltender to give them the extra man. The Tomahawks stayed focused and Watt took advantage of the empty net, scoring a hat-trick with 15 seconds remaining and sealing the team’s victory and sweep.

Watt noted after the game that the hat-trick “felt great but it’s better to get the sweep.”

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