The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


February 21, 2014

Tomahawks step up, move ahead

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Tomahawks received the jolt the North American Hockey League team needed last weekend at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.

Johnstown played some of its best hockey of the season while sweeping the second-place Michigan Warriors, 5-0 and 6-4.

Suddenly, a team that was struggling to find consistency is a lot closer to second place in the North Division than fourth.

“They really stepped up when they needed to and played real hard,” said Tomahawks coach Jason Spence, whose third-place squad is only a point back of  Michigan (54-53).

“The guys capitalized last weekend and they competed at a high level. They never quit any battles. There is still a lot at stake and we have to make sure we know that all the time.”

The Tomahawks (25-19-3)  will try to match last week’s intensity during a two-game set against the Wenatchee Wild tonight (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday (7) at the War Memorial. Wenatchee (24-19-6) is fourth in the Midwest Division with 54 points.

“Wenatchee is a very skilled team,” Spence said. “They have a good power play. They really capitalize on their chances. We have to make sure we don’t give them anything right from the start.

“We have to be consistent. We have to capitalize when we get chances. We have to deny the other team by playing with team discipline.”

Johnstown goaltender Alex Okicki won both of his starts last weekend, including a 30-save, 5-0 shutout on Feb. 14.

The NAHL recognized two Tomahawks after the two wins.

Forward Jordan Watt was named NAHL North Division Star of the Week, and forward Shane Bednard was the division's second star. This is the first time this season the Tomahawks swept both weekly awards.

“Jordan had four goals last weekend, with a hat trick on Saturday. That speaks for itself. He played with a lot of confidence,” Spence said. “He got in there and won the pucks, and he was rewarded.”

Watt scored a goal in last Friday’s win.

He followed up with a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, in a dramatic 6-4 victory over the Warriors on Saturday.

The native of Orange, Calif., rated a plus-4 on the weekend and has 25 points in 45 games this season.

“It was great to see Jordan break out and contribute as much as he did to our two victories over the weekend,” Tomahawks assistant coach Mike Letizia said. “He had been creating offensive chances and working very hard but just couldn’t quite get rewarded. The timing for his production could not have been any better given the magnitude of the games.”

Bednard had five points last weekend, including three on Saturday. He has eight points in his last five games and leads the team with 18 goals and 40 points.

“Shane continues to lift his offensive game to new heights and be there for our team in the clutch,” Letizia said. “What I admired most about his play (last weekend) was that coming out of a weekend where he just committed to play Division I hockey (at Bowling Green), he brought his game up another notch in helping our team to two crucial wins.”

Notes: The Tomahawks and Health Care First Credit Union will partner in a “Red Out” tonight in support of the American Heart Association and American Hearth Month. ... Guns & Hoses II will be held Saturday, beginning at 5 p.m. with a charity game featuring local police and firefighters. The Tomahawks will wear special jerseys against the Wild on Saturday. A postgame fireworks display will be held Saturday.

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