The Johnstown Tomahawks’ second season won’t start until September.
But the foundation of the sophomore NAHL season will be set today through Sunday at Planet Ice.
The Tomahawks will hold their main tryout camp during the next four days, with as many as 80 players expected to converge on the Richland Township rink.
“This is the camp where we want to pick our team,” said head coach Jason Spence, who a year ago was learning on his feet during the inaugural preseason for a team that won over Johnstown hockey fans. “We feel really comfortable that we did a good job of recruiting this year. These are going to be the players that we are going to be counting on all season.”
The Tomahawks coordinated three earlier summer tryouts in Michigan, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Players emerged from those sessions and will be joined by tendered players, returnees and NAHL Entry Draft selections.
Today’s session will begin at 5 p.m.
Practice continues on Friday with sessions and scrimmages at 9 a.m. (two games) and 4 p.m. (two games); Saturday at 8 a.m. (goalies only) and 9:10 a.m. (two games); and Sunday at 11 a.m. (all-star game).
“We had three different camps with 80-plus kids at every camp,” Spence said. “We took the best of those camps and we’re bringing them into Johnstown to compete for a spot on our team this year.”
The Tomahawks went 27-21-12 with 66 points in the NAHL’s North Division last season. Johnstown advanced to the Robertson Cup playoffs but bowed out.
Johnstown averaged almost 2,600 fans a game at Cambria County War Memorial Arena, fifth-best in the NAHL.
The Tomahawks had three players make NCAA Division I commitments and two others advance to different leagues in the offseason. The ’Hawks contributed more than $25,000 in charity donations during the 2012-13 season and were active in the community.
The NAHL named the Tomahawks the league’s organization of the year.
Now, Act II begins.
“We’re in a really good position,” Tomahawks President Richard Bouchard said. “Everybody was talking about us, and everybody wants to come here to play. There will be some real good talent.”
Spence said returnees trying out at camp include: defensemen Jake Fairchild, Jesse Kessler and Mitch Hall; forwards Jordan Watt, JB Baker, Zach Wallace, Jaycob McCombs; and goaltender Colin Brennan.
“All of our returning players are trying out for the spots they earned last year,” Bouchard said. “They’re trying to win their spots back.”
Johnstown’s top two NAHL Entry Draft selections from last month are expected in camp. Top pick Casey Linkenheld had 14 goals and 31 points for Team Illinois. The 5-foot-11 forward also was picked by the Lincoln Stars in the USHL draft.
No. 2 selection, goaltender Brett Young, played for Little Caesar’s Club in Detroit and went 20-14-4 with six shutouts. He was at the Tomahawk’s Michigan tryout.
“This year we know a lot more of what we’re getting,” Spence said. “Last year it was totally new to our whole organization. We took the players that were returning from the year before and kind of used them as models or a gauge to the new kids coming in. This year we know a lot more of what to expect, what we want and what we’re going to get.”
Bouchard expects a strong contingent in goal.
In addition to Brennan returning, the Tomahawks have Young and Alex Okicki, who played for the Kalamazoo Junior K-Wings last season. Okicki went 18-11-4 with a 2.74 GAA and .918 save percentage. He had 33 wins in the past two seasons with Kalamazoo, which no longer is in the NAHL.
“The goalie competition should be very good,” said Bouchard, noting two to three additional netminders should be at the tryout. “There is some real good talent in goal.”
The Tomahawks open the regular season on Sept. 14 and 15 against the Port Huron Fighting Falcons at the War Memorial. The ‘’Hawks will play 28 home games during the 60-game NAHL season.
“From my perspective it seems like it ended not so long ago, and here we are getting ready to start up again,” Bouchard said.
The Johnstown Tomahawks’ second season won’t start until September.
‘Hawks already building toward next season
Jason Spence used up his cell phone’s battery on a trip from Johnstown to his parents’ home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Once the Johnstown Tomahawks coach got to his destination, Spence had to get creative to secure cell service across the border.
Fighting Falcons win playoff series against Tomahawks
The third period of Game 3 of the NAHL North Division semifinal served as a quick primer of the Johnstown Tomahawks’ playoff fortunes against top-seeded Port Huron.
Trailing by two goals going into the third, the Tomahawks ramped up the intensity, producing a goal early and a multitude of chances at an equalizer until the game’s final moments when goaltender Max Milosek stopped Jordan Watt’s breakaway try as the Cambria County War Memorial Arena’s horn sounded.
’Hawks need a win to survive
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.
Falcons clip Tomahawks in overtime
The Johnstown Tomahawks squandered a pair of two-goal leads and fell 4-3 in overtime to Port Huron in Game 2 of the North Division semifinals on Friday night.
Johnstown trails the best-of-5 series 2-0 and will try to avoid elimination when the series moves to Cambria County War Memorial Arena on Friday.
Tomahawks drop Game 1 on road
The Johnstown Tomahawks came back from an early two-goal deficit, but Jon Hall scored a third period goal to give the Port Huron Fighting Falcons the 3-2 win in Game 1 of the best-of-5 North Division semi-finals on Thursday night at McMorran Arena.
The Fighting Falcons struck first, as Bryce VanHorn scored 1:39 into the first period. Logan Lambdin earned an assist on the goal.
Tomahawks set to open postseason on road
The Johnstown Tomahawks open the Robertson Cup playoffs tonight at Port Huron hoping to reclaim the form that enabled the second-year team to move near the top of the NAHL North Division a mere six weeks ago.
Standing in the way of fourth-seeded Johnstown is No. 1 Port Huron, a team that planted itself firmly atop the division and never relented.
'Hawks drop season finale at Janesville
The Johnstown Tomahawks closed the NAHL regular season with a 4-1 loss to the Janesville Jets in front of 650 fans at Janesville Ice Arena on Saturday night.
The Tomahawks had secured the North Division’s fourth and final playoff spot when Springfield lost at Soo on Friday night, so the game had no bearing on the playoff race.
Tomahawks clinch berth in playoffs
The Johnstown Tomahawks lost a 5-3 decision at Janesville on Friday, but clinched a NAHL playoff berth nonetheless because Soo defeated Springfield 2-1 earlier in the day.
The Tomahawks began the weekend in fourth place, three points behind Janesville and three points ahead of fifth-place Springfield.
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Eagles avoid sweep, nip Tomahawks
The Johnstown Tomahawks battled back from a three-goal deficit in Sunday afternoon’s final regular-season home game against Soo, but a late third-period score by the Eagles sent the Tomahawks to a disappointing 4-3 loss.
Soo (24-27-7) erupted for three unanswered goals in a six-minute span to open the second period before the Tomahawks (28-25-5) pulled within one heading into the third and subsequently tied it at 5:53 of the final period on a blast from inside the right circle by Matt Meier.
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