The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

September 30, 2013

Tomahawks knock off Eagles for second straight win


sports@tribdem.com

Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. — Jordan Watt didn't score in a shootout on Saturday night because he didn't put the puck on net.

The Johnstown Tomahawks forward wasn't about to make the same mistake on Sunday afternoon.

Watt scored both goals, including one on a penalty shot with 2:09 remaining in the third period, and Alex Okicki stopped 28 shots as the Tomahawks beat the Soo Eagles 2-0 for their second consecutive victory.

“My mindset was 'I just have to get a shot off,' ” Watt said of the penalty shot that beat Soo goalie Paige Skoog. “I went glove side and found a hole.”

A night earlier, Watt had beaten former teammate Colin Brennan in the shootout, but rang the puck off the post in a game the Tomahawks (4-4-1) eventually won. So when he was hauled down on a breakway in the closing minutes on Sunday, he made the most of his chance.

Watt's success didn't surprise Tomahawks coach Jason Spence.

“He's real deceptive,” Spence said. “He's got a really quick release and a really hard shot.”

Watt flashed that hard shot in the second period, as he scored on a power play. The goal, which was assisted by Mitch Hall and Jesse Kessler came just two seconds after a 5-on-3 chance ended for the Tomahawks but before Michelle Marchetti could get back in the play for Soo (2-2-3).

“It was 5 on 3 and were working it down low,” Watt said. “(Brandon Rheinholz) was in the slot area as a decoy. I shot it and it just trickled in.”

The Tomahawks were 1 for 5 on the power play. They also killed five penalties, which was a step in the right direction for a team that ranks 19th in the 24-team league.

Some of the Tomahawks' success stemmed from their ability to block shots.

“We played a little more physical and took away their time and space,” Spence said. “We had some real big blocks. One of our new guys, Ryan McNeely, has made some really good blocks.”

McNeely, a forward from Scottsdale, Ariz., was acquired from the Minnesota Wilderness last week in a deal for Jaycob McCombs and Ryan Bittner.

Each blocked shot seemed to give the Tomahawks an emotional lift and the players on the bench banged their sticks on the boards in appreciation.

“It kind of lets everyone know what you're willing to do for the team,” Spence said of the blocked shots. “It's a big motivation when you see guys literally laying their body on the line for the team. That shows them, 'I've got to pick my socks up and do the same thing.' ”

Okicki certainly “picked up his socks” for the Tomahawks on the weekend. After losing twice to Port Huron to start the season, Okicki missed the first two games of the North American Hockey League Showcase with an injury and then saw Colin DeAugustine shine in his place.

DeAugustine started at Soo on Friday night, but was lifted in favor of Okicki after giving up three first-period goals. Okicki stopped 28 of the 30 shots in relief, then got the start in Saturday night's victory. After giving up two first-period goals, he shut out the Eagles over the final two periods, the overtime period and stopped seven shots in the shootout. He hasn't allowed a goal in more than 116 minutes of action.

“It was really good, helping my confidence, especially losing the first two games at home,” Okicki said. “I thought I did what I could and got four points.”

Okicki said Sunday's victory was a total team effort.

“We came back there and today, just completely dominated their team,” he said. “In the corners, just grinding. Blocking shots was incredible.”

The Tomahawks moved into second place in the NAHL North with the victory and evened their record for the first time this season.

“We really picked it up after Friday's nights loss,” Watt said. “We knew we had to at least get one. We had the same mindset coming into today.”