The Johnstown Tomahawks have settled on two goaltenders to play the remainder of the NAHL season.
The North Division third-place team released goaltender Jake Moore on Tuesday, leaving veteran Alex Okicki and rookie Brett Young as goalies on the roster.
“We had three goaltenders. Now we’re down to two,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said. “We’re going to go with Young and Okicki through the playoffs. Okicki is a veteran. Young has worked hard all year and should have had a win on Friday but we lost in overtime.”
Young, 18, was a tough-luck loser in overtime at first-place Port Huron on Friday, stopping 33 shots in a 3-2 setback.
“Young is 6-foot-4, a big-body goaltender,” Spence said. “He is very athletic especially post to post. He’s good on the ground. He battles in close. He’s really hungry.
“He was out of the rotation for a while but he was still every bit a part of the team as everybody else,” Spence added. “He waited for his chance. He got it. He deserves it.”
Okicki is a 20-year-old with three seasons of experience in the NAHL.
He is 16-11-1, including three shutouts, a 2.58 goals against average and .915 save percentage with the Tomahawks. He’s won 49 NAHL games in 96 appearances including two seasons with Kalamazoo.
“Alex is that veteran guy that you can really count on,” Spence said. “He makes some of the saves that kind of seem like they shouldn’t be made. Alex gets better and better the more chances he gets.”
Spence said the two goalies will motivate one another. And, unlike a three-man rotation, there should be plenty of work in games and practices.
“They’re going to push each other hard,” Spence said. “We’re going to ride them until the end. That’s not to say anything bad about Jake Moore, but we have to go with two now that we have our playoff roster. We had to get down to the numbers, and it’s tough to carry three goaltenders.”
The 23-man NAHL playoff roster deadline is Feb. 10.
Moore, 19, went 5-5-0 with a 2.96 GAA and .912 save percentage.
“We released him to give him more opportunities to go somewhere else so he’s not restricted,” Spence said, explaining why the Tomahawks didn’t trade Moore.
The Tomahawks are idle this weekend before playing host to the second-place Michigan Warriors on Feb. 14-15 at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Notes: Tomahawks defenseman Mitch Hall was named NAHL North Division Star of the Week ending Feb. 2. Hall had three points as Johnstown earned three of a possible four points at Port Huron. He leads the Tomahawks with 28 assists, nine power-play goals and a plus-14 rating. His assists and 33 points rank second among NAHL defenseman.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.