For The Tribune-Democrat
It took more than 60 minutes, but the Johnstown Tomahawks finally got some redemption over the Soo Eagles in a 3-2 shootout win Friday night at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Johnstown captain Mitch Kontny tied the game with 3:20 left in the third period after burying a pass from linemate Brandon Brossoit.
Then, as Johnstown’s third shooter, Kontny delivered the game-winning goal in the shootout, followed by Brossoit’s insurance marker to give the Tomahawks (6-4-4) their first win in three tries against the Eagles (7-5-2).
“Some games all the bounces don’t go for you. Sometimes they go the other way,” Johnstown coach Jason Spence said. “You’ve got to stay mentally focused, and the guys did. They stayed on the puck and ended up tying it up. Then, two seconds left, that could have been the winner.”
With 10 seconds left in regulation and Johnstown on the power play, the fans were screaming, “Shoot it.” But the Tomahawks were patient with the puck, coolly moving it around the perimeter of the Soo zone. With about five seconds left, a Johnstown defenseman sent a pass to the slot, which deflected right to a wide open Brossoit on the goal line near the left post with an empty net in front of him and two ticks on the clock.
“Tyler Marble made a great save on that one,” Soo coach Bruno Bragagnolo said of his goaltender’s behind-the-back stick save on Brossoit before the buzzer. “I thought that was in, I’m not going to lie to you.”
Spence and Bragagnolo certainly agreed on one thing Friday night.
“I actually thought that went in,” Spence said. “It didn’t go in and I know it didn’t, but I can’t see any way how it couldn’t have gone in. But the ice gets bad at the end of the game, especially in the crease.”
After striking first on a goal by Johns-
town’s J.B. Baker – a 17-year-old winger from Columbia, Md. – the Tomahawks fell behind 2-1 in the second period on goals from Soo forwards Mike Sabatini and Dallas McLaughlin 1:43 apart.
Moments before the Tomahawks tied the game in the third period, Baker – a senior at Richland High School – was all over the ice, delivering at least three hits in a spirited shift that didn’t go unnoticed on the bench.
“That’s a big thing that changes momentum,” Spence said of Baker’s three-hit shift. “You want to make sure you have guys playing their role, and sometimes you need a spark. Then, when you get that spark, it lights the fire.”
Along with the top forward unit, Baker was easily one of Johnstown’s best forwards on the ice early in the game, and his hard work and solid position play resulted in the youngster’s third goal of the season.
“It means a lot,” Baker said of his energy-filled shift. “It gets the team behind you and they get a lot of energy. I just try to help the next line get motivated and go get the next goal.”
And the next line delivered.
“They’re our top line for a reason,” Spence said of Kontny, Brossoit and Cody Gylling. “They’ve been playing hard, playing with real good poise. They have speed and some good shooters on that line.”
The Tomahawks and Eagles play again tonight at 7.
“Big win,” Kontny said. “We gave them one point, but we battled back. So that’s the big thing, to get some momentum going into the next game.”
Johnstown goaltender Colin Brennan made 32 saves on 34 shots and stopped all four shooters in the shootout. Marble finished with 26 saves on 28 shots, but stopped just 2 of 4 in the shootout.
“Both goalies played really well,” Bragagnolo said.
“They made the game exciting. They made some great saves.”
Notes: Prior to Friday night’s action, the Tomahawks led the league in minor penalties with 97. … Friday’s game marked the first of two “Pink in the Rink” promotions to raise money for breast cancer awareness. In addition to the pink playing surface, the Tomahawks wore pink and white jerseys, which will be auctioned off to benefit the Conemaugh Health System’s cancer fund.
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