The Hanson Brothers offered a fiery pregame pep talk Friday night at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
On cue, Johnstown Tomahawks goaltender Collin Brennan went onto the ice and played like “Slap Shot” netminder Denis Lemieux.
Brennan made 19 saves to record the first shutout in Tomahawks history, and his teammates provided plenty of support with a lockdown defensive effort and five goals. Johnstown beat Jamestown (N.Y.) 5-0 and closed within three points of the first-place Ironmen.
“They basically quoted the whole movie when they were in the locker room,” Brennan said, referring to a rousing motivational talk by the Hansons – Dave Hanson and real-life brothers Steve and Jeff Carlson. “They said Jamestown called us names and we had to come out fired up and do whatever it takes to win.
“We went to the movie (Thursday) night. It was great to see them. The team was pumped up and ready to go.”
When asked what his favorite line is from the movie, Brennan said, “I don’t know about a line, but my favorite guy is the goalie. I know goalies are called weird all the time, and I think he’s one of the reasons why.”
In the movie, filmed in Johnstown in 1976, actor Yvon Barrette played the likeable French-Canadian goalie with a heavy accent, Denis Lemieux. His TV interview explaining the nature of hockey penalties to broadcaster Jim Carr, and his line, asking “Who own da’ Chiefs?’ are classics in “Slap Shot.”
But Friday’s movie spotlight belonged to Johnstown’s favorite trio of bespectacled, foil-knuckled brothers, the Hansons.
A crowd of 3,388 attended, many of those fans waiting in a long line that started near the Party Pit and extended more than halfway around the arena concourse during the lengthy autograph session.
The Hansons greeted the crowd to a loud ovation. During the first intermission the trio – No. 16 Dave; No. 17 Steve; and No. 18 Jeff – skated against a group of youth hockey players called the Future Tomahawks.
Steve Carlson even playfully hooked a young tike heading for the net on a breakaway. The kids eventually chased the fleeing Hansons onto the bench.
“It was pretty funny. They came in the locker room before the game and they started saying lines from the movie,” said forward Connor Wright, who netted the Tomahawks first goal and rated a plus-3. “They put their elbows up and said, ‘Gordie (Howe), Old-time hockey.’ It was cool seeing them come in here. There was a lot of fans out there and it got us going.”
Wright did his part to get his team going, too. He scored after Zach Wallace skated through the right circle and sent a pass back to the slot, where Wright zipped it past goaltender Reid Mimmack on the blocker side 12:18 into the game.
“It was in the neutral zone, Zach Wallace picked it up and he took it wide,” Wright said. “I had a nice pass right on my tape. I just laid into it and went bottom left.”
The Tomahawks took a two-goal advantage with only 59 seconds remaining in the opening period. Jesse Kessler converted a power play with an assist by Casey Nelson.
Jordan Watt made it 3-0 at 12:10 of the second period, winning a face-off and skating nearly uncontested to the net for an unassisted tally.
“The big crowd, the Hansons, all of those things made it a big night,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said.
“When you’re 18, 19 or 20 years old, if you get a chance to play in front of that atmosphere there’s no holding back.”
The Tomahawks put the game out of reach and chased Mimmack with a pair of goals 10 seconds apart during the first
8:29 of the final period.
Brandon Reinholz netted his 13th of the season on the power play with an assist by Cody Gylling at 8:19.
Before that goal was announced, Andrew McDonald scored to make it 5-0.
“It was a great win against a first-place team,” Brennan said. “Our D played great. The whole team played a solid game.”
The Tomahawks have won eight of the past nine games and are 15-7-6 with an 8-3-2 home mark. The Hawks and Ironmen play again at 7 tonight in another big promotional event that has the Stanley Cup and Penguins Chris Kunitz and Matt Cooke in the building.
“I think it’s just been great leadership,” Brennan said of the winning stretch.
“In the locker room everybody enjoys being around each other. Team chemistry really has come together. We realize the sky is the limit.”
The Hansons – or Denis Lemieux – couldn’t have put it any better.
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