The Johnstown Tomahawks’ NAHL season began three weeks ago.
But for Johnstown hockey fans, it becomes official tonight.
The Tomahawks will play their first home game in front of a sellout crowd at Cambria County War Memorial Arena. Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux will drop the ceremonial first puck for the 7:30 p.m. game.
Johnstown will welcome its own hockey team back to the War Memorial for the first time since the Chiefs moved to Greenville, S.C., in 2010.
“This is the big game you play for. This is your home opener,” said Tomahawks first-year head coach Jason Spence, a former Chiefs player and assistant coach. “You want to show everybody what you have and you want to welcome your fans and give them the best you have. We’ve been working real hard this week to make sure we do that.”
The Tomahawks are out to a slow start at 1-3-2, but that all could change with home games tonight and Sunday afternoon against the Michigan Warriors (1-4-0).
“Everyone’s pretty excited and ready for the big game, especially for the home opener and having hockey back in Johnstown,” Tomahawks forward JB Baker said. “I just can’t wait to play.”
Lemieux’s presence won’t go unnoticed.
The Hall of Fame center led the Penguins to two Stanley Cups on the ice in 1991-92 and another as an owner in 2009. No. 66 is credited with reviving the franchise in the 1980s, saving a team that declared bankruptcy in 1998 and helping secure a state-of-the-art new arena, the Consol Energy Center, in 2010.
“This is like one of your dreams, to get to shake hands with a professional hockey player before the game,” said Tomahawks captain Mitch Kontny, who will be at center ice for the ceremonial puck drop.
“It’s something special,” Baker added.
Forward Brandon Platt is from Cranberry, Butler County. He played youth hockey games with the North Pittsburgh Wildcats at the War Memorial and attended his share of Chiefs ECHL games.
“I’m pretty excited about this game. I watched the Chiefs a lot when I was younger and I played up here,” Platt said. “I think it’s going to be pretty nuts because I’ve seen the Chiefs fans. Everybody on the team is pretty excited. The nerves are kicking in a little bit, but I think it will calm down once it gets to be game time.”
Spence has seen significant improvement despite the Tomahawks’ record. The Tier II Junior A players are striving to land a college scholarship or perhaps earn a shot at the pro game.
“The hard work and the passion and desire in these players is amazing,” Spence said. “We’re a team that got moved from a different city and has a lot of new faces but everybody already is like a family in the room. It’s great to be around. Everybody wants to do all they can to do the best they can for the team.”
The Johnstown Tomahawks’ NAHL season began three weeks ago.
‘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.
- Tomahawks’ playoff hopes hinge on next two games
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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