Cody Gylling thought his team was about to go on a power-play opportunity that would extend into overtime on Sunday evening.
The Johnstown Tomahawks forward was ready to play out the final 5 seconds of regulation against the Kalamazoo Junior K-Wings.
But plans quickly changed. Gylling was informed he would take a penalty shot resulting from a delay of game call made during a battle in front of the K-Wings net with Johnstown already at the tail end of a lengthy two-man advantage.
“At first, I didn’t know we had a penalty shot,” Gylling said. “I thought the 5-on-3 would carry over to the overtime. Then, I realized it was a shootout. Coach asked me if I was good to go. I just nodded and tried to visualize my shot.”
Gylling visualized and executed. His five-hole goal against Kalamazoo goaltender Alex Okicki provided the difference in Johnstown’s 2-1 victory in front of 2,241 fans at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Winning in regulation took on added significance because the Tomahawks are within one point of third-place Kalamazoo entering tonight’s New Year’s Eve game at the War Memorial.
“We’re within a point of them and we have a game in hand, but we’ve got to play well,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said. “Everybody’s got to play together. We’ve got to play hard and play together.”
Spence was concerned by the Hawks’ 1 of 10 performance on the power play. Johnstown had two 5-on-3 advantages but failed to convert either.
Kalamazoo was hit by three penalties in the final 1:59 of regulation, the last resulting in the penalty shot.
“Our special teams really weren’t firing on all cylinders but give credit to Kalamazoo’s penalty kill,” Spence said. “They pressure the puck really hard. We didn’t have the time. No excuses. It was our first game back after the guys were off for five or six days. We weren’t sharp. We’ve got to bring a lot more (today) to win.”
Johnstown’s penalty kill also was effective, as the K-Wings were scoreless on six opportunities.
Tomahawks goaltender Chris Truehl made 26 saves.
The Hawks are 17-9-6 (40 points) with a 9-4-2 home mark. Kalamazoo is 19-11-3 (41).
Neither team scored through the opening 34 minutes of play.
Johnstown’s Jordan Watt netted his 12th goal of the season on the power play at 14:21 of the middle period. Jeff Bergh and Ian Spencer assisted.
But before the War Memorial crowd could get too excited, Kalamazoo’s Taylor Burden back-handed a shot past Truehl 46 seconds later to tie the game at 1-all.
“We scored and they came right back down and scored,” Spence said. “They got the momentum right back.”
The intensity picked up, especially after a scrum at 17:39 of the second period that resulted in five penalties split among four players.
The ill will carried over into the final period, as Kalamazoo’s Brendan Vetter and Johnstown’s Jesse Kessler fought one second after the face-off.
A series of K-Wings penalties gave Johnstown a 29-second 5-on-3 almost midway through the third, but the Hawks couldn’t score.
Okicki fended off most of a two-man advantage lasting 1:20 late in the period just prior to the penalty shot.
“Definitely uncharacteristic of us,” Gylling said. “We have the second-ranked power play in the league. That we didn’t capitalize on the 5-on-3 was a little bit shocking.”
Gylling skated toward the net for the penalty shot but the buzzer sounded as he approached the net. Play was stopped to allow a K-Wings player to leave the penalty box.
“That didn’t really affect me much,” Gylling said. “It kind of helped me see what the goalie was going to do and see if my move was going to work.”
The move ended with the puck hitting the back of the net.
“That’s usually my move in practice,” Gylling said. “I have two or three go-to moves but that one has been working lately.”