The NAHL North Division has been tight all season.
The Michigan Warriors made it just a bit more interesting on Friday night.
Michigan used Jon Farkas’ third-period goal and a strong performance by netminder Trevor Gorsuch to edge the Johnstown Tomahawks 2-1 at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
The Warriors moved into a tie for second place in the North Division with the Tomahawks.
“It’s definitely a must,” Johnstown coach Jason Spence said of tonight’s 7 p.m. rematch between the teams at the War Memorial. “This was a game that we had to win, and obviously (tonight) is just that much more important now.”
A crowd of 2,724 watched as the Tomahawks outshot the Warriors 29-23 but couldn’t finish good scoring opportunities or convert any of Johnstown’s four power-play opportunities.
The Tomahawks weren’t whistled for any penalties, a rarity at any level of hockey.
“We came out well and then it looked like we didn’t have enough jump,” Spence said. “We were slower on the decision making. I don’t know what the chances were for one team or the other, but we have to be better.
“We have to play 60 minutes. We can’t play hard for spots of the game.”
The Warriors snapped a rough stretch against Johnstown.
The Tomahawks had won four of the first six meetings in the season series, including a two-game sweep on Dec. 30 and New Year’s Eve at the War Memorial.
Spence’s team was 4-1-1 all time at home against the Warriors prior to Friday.
“When both these teams play, both teams are pretty close matched up, and you know it’s going to be a good, tight-checking hockey game,” Michigan coach Moe Mantha said.
Five of the teams’ seven games against each other have been decided by one goal.
Johnstown’s Josh Bowes put the home team in front with his fourth goal at 4:21 of the first. Tyler Basham assisted.
But Michigan’s Joshua Shellman tied it at 17:12 of the opening period. There were no first-period penalties.
Neither team scored in the second.
Farkas has a knack for finding the net against Johnstown. He proved as much 2:23 into the third period, as he snapped a shot that went into the top corner of the cage for the eventual game-winner.
“(Farkas) was just above the goal line when he shot the puck,” Spence said. “I don’t know if it handcuffed Alex Okicki, but it just went in the top right-hand corner.”
Farkas has four goals in seven games against the Tomahawks.
“He’s a power forward that likes going into the corners and likes going to the net,” Mantha said. “He’s got a quick, sneaky shot. That goal he got was a good timed goal for us, just going down the wing and just firing it.”
Both coaches pointed to Michigan’s penalty kill unit as a key to the outcome.
“When we had our feet moving, we were OK,” Spence said of the power play. “But it’s a credit to their penalty kill. They pressured us very hard. The puck wasn’t really settling for us. We weren’t making enough hockey plays.”
Mantha said the Warriors put in extra time and saw the benefits.
“We had two weeks when we didn’t play, and we had a bye weekend,” Mantha said. “We spent a good eight days working on our special teams. We’ve settled things down and have more structure.”
Notes: Tomahawks goaltender Okicki stopped 21 of 23 shots. Michigan’s Gorsuch had 28 saves. … Mantha said he hoped to get an autographed Jason Spence bobblehead after Friday’s special promotional giveaway. … The Tomahawks are 12-7-1 at home. Michigan is 7-7-5 on the road.
The NAHL North Division has been tight all season.
‘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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