Dakoda Menslage saw his defensive partner Mitch Hall look directly at him as the final seconds ticked down Saturday night at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Menslage knew the puck was coming. His instincts took over.
“We set the play up – win it back, go D-to-D and try to get a shot off,” Menslage said of his game-tying goal against the Wenatchee Wild with 19 seconds remaining in regulation. “I saw Hallsie look me right in the eye. I knew it was coming. I just stared at that puck and tried to hit it as hard as I can. I looked up. It went in. I got lucky there and it went in.”
Unfortunately for the Tomahawks, the roars of a crowd of 3,560 fans were silenced only 14 seconds into the ensuing overtime. Wenatchee’s David Powlowski knocked in the puck from the post and the Wild won 3-2.
The Tomahawks’ four-game winning streak was halted, but Johnstown extended its string of six consecutive games with at least one point. Most significant, the Tomahawks moved into a tie for second place with the Michigan Warriors, who fell 4-2 at Springfield on Saturday.
“We didn’t play a bad hockey game, but we didn’t get enough shots through to the goaltender,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said. “That’s a really good hockey team we played. It hurts when you only get three points out of a weekend when you think you should get four. That’s how it works sometimes.”
The near-capacity crowd gave the Tomahawks an attendance of 9,412 in their past three home games, an average of 3,137 during that span.
Goaltender Alex Okicki stopped 31 of 34 Wenatchee shots while playing in his 100th NAHL regular-season game. Okicki will have to wait to record his first 20-win season though. He is 19-11-1-1.
“Alex battles,” Spence said. “He wants to win more than anybody. He’s a competitor. I feel bad we didn’t get the win for him tonight, but we’ll keep moving ahead.”
Matt Meier gave the Tomahawks a 1-0 lead 8:31 into the game, skating along the right wing and taking a shot from inside the circle to beat goalie Austin Priebe, who made 21 saves and won his first game with the Wild.
Wenatchee’s Parker Tuomie converted on a power play at 16:55 in the opening period.
Tuomie, who has been a Tomahawks tormentor, gave the Wild a 2-1 lead in the second. The 5-foot-9 forward netted his 20th of the season and 10th against Johnstown at 11:42.
Prior to the go-ahead goal, the Tomahawks had successfully killed off a full 2-minute, 5-on-3 Wild power play as well as the remainder of the power play that extended almost another minute.
Johnstown’s trio of Mitch Hall, Jordan Watt and Menslage killed off part of the two-man power play. Shane Cuckovich, Brandon Reinholz and Brady Bender finished the job.
“Our guys have a lot of heart,” Spence said. “They’ll lay down and risk everything to block a shot. That says a lot for our family in that room.”
The second period included a scrum that resulted in six players combining for 75 penalty minutes. Three game misconducts were handed out as well as two fighting majors, matching roughing double minors, two 10-minute misconducts and a leaving the bench minor.
The Tomahawks lost Shane Bednard to a game misconduct after his fight with Mike Coyne, who also was ejected. Meier received a game misconduct for a leaving the bench penalty.
The game misconducts to Bednard and Meier resulted in the loss of players accounting for a combined 35 goals and 78 points this season.
“I don’t even know what (referee Matthew Larson) was thinking,” Spence said. “For example, Meier was on the ice. I have no idea how they made that call, but they did, and sometimes you don’t get it on your side of the officiating and sometimes you do.
“That call really hurt us but everyone rallied around and we came back to tie it. Obviously with that firepower that we lost, that’s a big momentum killer.”
The Tomahawks regained the momentum in the third, outshooting Wenatchee 13-6 one period after the Wild posted a 19-8 advantage.
“The first two periods we were kind of in a slump and had a lot of penalties, but we battled and blocked shots,” Menslage said. “We came out in the third and played hard and put the puck in the net. We got shots. We worked hard as a team and had decent results with three points out of a possible four in the weekend.”
Menslage’s goal with Okicki pulled for an extra attacker tied the game.
“We just passed it around, and the puck was moved around the box,” Spence said. “There was traffic around the net. It was a real good one-timer at the right height. I don’t think the goalie had a chance to get set for it.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.