The Johnstown Tomahawks are honoring their fans throughout the final home weekend of the NAHL season.
On Saturday night, the Tomahawks made sure those among a crowd of 2,951 remained seated until the final siren of each period and throughout overtime and a shootout.
If someone left early to visit the concession stand or restroom, they probably missed a key moment during the Tomahawks’ 4-3 overtime shootout victory over the Soo Eagles at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
“That was a huge momentum-builder,” said Tomahawks forward Tyler Basham, who netted Johnstown’s first goal of the game and converted in the opening round of the shootout.
The Tomahawks late-period drama included a game-tying goal with only 17 seconds remaining in the first period.
Johnstown once again tied the game with only 1:03 left in the second.
The home team took a lead with 3:14 showing in the third, but Soo tied it less than a minute later.
Mitch Hall used a deke in the slot and a forehand-backhand move to net the game-winner in the fourth round of the shootout. Alex Okicki made a pad save on Soo’s final attempt to secure the Tomahawks’ second straight win.
“I was just trying to watch my teammates who went before me and saw the goalie’s tendencies,” Hall said. “(Soo goaltender Paige Skoog) was dropping early, so I figured, fake shot, go forehand-backhand. It worked out for me.”
The fourth-place Tomahawks (28-24-5, 61 points) eliminated last-place Soo (23-26-8, 54) from playoff contention with three games remaining for each team. The Eagles and Hawks will play at 3 p.m. today in the home finale at the War Memorial.
Third-place Janesville (62) split a pair of games played Saturday against second-place Michigan (66). Fifth-place Springfield (58) beat Topeka 3-2.
“We always have that confidence and never doubt ourselves,” Basham said. “We believed we were going to win the game. We’ve got Alex Okicki in net, and he’s a great goaltender.”
Okicki made 38 saves in his 21st win of the season.
The Tomahawks goaltender withstood a 22-shot second period by the Eagles.
“Alex played remarkable,” said the Tomahawks’ Jordan Watt, who scored his 21st goal. “He made some incredible saves.”
For the second night in a row, the Tomahawks fell behind early. Soo’s Sandis Zolmanis scored from the low slot 5:32 into the game.
Johnstown capitalized on a late power play opportunity. Basham converted on a shot between the circles with only 17 seconds remaining.
“I got a great pass from the point from Dakoda Menslage,” Basham said. “Mitch Hall passed it to Menslage after a great offensive win by Brandon Reinholz. (Menslage) was able to hit me right in the middle of the slot. It was a good, quick snapshot and it was able to beat him top left.”
Soo regained the lead on Brad Pung’s goal 11:15 into the second. The Tomahawks used another late-period goal to knot the score at 2-all as Watt scored with 1:03 on the clock.
Reinholz won a faceoff in the left circle, and Watt whacked the puck while it was still airborne.
“It bounced my way and I batted it out of the air,” Watt said. “It happened to go in. It gave us a lot of momentum coming into the third.
“We weren’t happy with the way we were playing,” he added, “but we were happy that we were still tied.”
Matt Meier’s 20th goal of the season put the Tomahawks in front 3-2 at 16:46 of the third. Hall held the puck near the point and then found Meier alone on the right post.
“We had a play off the draw that we wanted to run and it didn’t work out the way we wanted it to,” Hall said. “I just tried to create some space, and Meier was wide open so I slid it over to him and he did the rest of the work.”
Soo’s Michael Sabatini converted a 5-on-3 advantage at 17:44.
Neither team scored in overtime. In the shootout, Basham beat Skoog in the first round, and Soo’s Matt Menta converted in the fourth round. Hall’s goal provided the winning margin.
“We’re going to try to make it a third (win) for the fans (today),” Hall said.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.