The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


December 13, 2012

Tomahawks on winning track

JOHNSTOWN — The Hanson Brothers return to Cambria County War Memorial Arena tonight.

The Stanley Cup and Pittsburgh Penguins Matt Cooke and Chris Kunitz arrive on Saturday night.

A ‘Slap Shot’ Extravaganza, a visit by Santa Claus, and a Teddy Bear Toss also will keep Johnstown hockey fans busy at the arena.

With so much happening off the ice, it might be easy to forget that a sizzling NAHL team will be playing on the ice.

The Johnstown Tomahawks have won seven of their past eight games overall and scorched the East and West coasts with five wins during six road dates over three consecutive weekends. The stops included two wins in Jamestown (N.Y.), a split in Wenatchee (Wash.) and another two-game sweep in Fresno (Calif.).

Coach Jason Spence’s North Division fourth-place team closed within five points of first-place Jamestown, which visits the War Memorial tonight and tomorrow.

“The boys have been playing real hard, and it was one of those road trips that was good for the guys,” Spence said. “They have come together. They have found their identity.

“The hard thing is you’ve got to make sure you keep brining that every night.”

The Tomahawks are 14-7-6 with 34 points. Jamestown is 18-7-3, with 39 points. In between are second-place Soo (37 points) and third-place Kalamazoo (35).

Johnstown will have some extra help tonight as the infamous Hanson Brothers lead the “Slap Shot” Extravaganza. Dave Hanson and brothers Jeff and Steve Carlson will reprise their roles as the Hansons in the Paul Newman movie filmed in Johnstown in 1976 and based on the 1974-75 Jets team that won the professional NAHL league title.

On Saturday, the Stanley Cup will be on display, and Penguins Cooke and Kunitz will meet fans.

“I’m excited, so I can’t imagine what the players will be thinking,” Spence said. “They’ve got NHL players and everybody has ‘Slap Shot’ as their Holy Grail. That’s hockey’s best movie and everyone grows up watching it. To have the stars of that movie not just being in the town, but to be in front of you, is awesome. The next night they’ll have two NHL stars in the same building, not to mention the Stanley Cup. That’s pretty cool.”

Whitney Pappas, the Tomahawks game day operations manager, described the build-up as, “Crazy.”

“It’s just a jam-packed weekend,” Pappas said. “Eight or nine youth hockey teams in the area are involved and they are excited to be part of everything.”

Pappas said the Tomahawks contacted the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario, in July about landing the Stanley Cup for a game.

“They’re bringing the Cup from Montreal and will drive here,” Pappas said. “Then, they’ll drive back to Toronto.”

The Stanley Cup will be displayed in the large room located in the area behind the Party Pit. Cooke and Kunitz, each members of the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup-winning team, will sign autographs. Santa Claus will be available for photos taken by the team’s official photographer.

Saturday’s game also will include the Teddy Bear Toss, continuing a tradition started here by the ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs in which fans toss new Teddy Bears and toys onto the ice after the first Tomahawks goal. The toys are collected by Tomahawks staff and the U.S. Marines as part of the Toys for Tots campaign.

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