The Port Huron Fighting Falcons have made themselves at home in Cambria County War Memorial Arena since the NAHL landed in the city just over a year ago.
Port Huron has a 6-1 record against the Johnstown Tomahawks in games played at the War Memorial. That includes a 4-3 overtime game that eliminated the Tomahawks from the Robertson Cup playoffs on April 7.
“They beat us in the playoffs last year and they beat us on our home opening weekend this season,” said Tomahawks coach Jason Spence, whose team hosts first-place Port Huron at 7 tonight and again at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“We owe them a lot.”
Johnstown dropped a pair of games to visiting Port Huron (3-1 and 5-1) on opening weekend Sept. 14-15.
“We only played them twice so far this year but we already have a big rivalry with them,” Spence said.
Last season had a similar start, as Johnstown lost its first two games ever played in the NAHL, both at Port Huron. The Fighting Falcons have an all-time 10-3 record against the Tomahawks.
“They work real hard and they capitalize on their opportunities,” Spence said.
“They’re a good team. We have to stay out of the box and play hard. We have to make sure we capitalize on our chances because we know they will.”
While it might not rank up there with the former ECHL Chiefs’ Game 7 loss to Carolina in the 1989 finals, or the Chiefs’ one-game playoff loss to Reading in 2005, Johnstown fans still were stunned by the result of the lone home playoff game during the Tomahawks’ debut season.
The Tomahawks had split the first two games at Port Huron, being shut out in Game 1 and blanking the Falcons in Game 2.
The decisive third game was played at Johnstown.
The Tomahawks had a two-goal advantage with more than half the final period gone.
But Port Huron collected goals by Rick DeRosa at 12:59 and Brett D’Andrea with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker at 19:25. Ian Miller scored unassisted 3:28 into overtime.
None of those players are on the Fighting Falcons’ current roster.
“We match up pretty well against them,” Spence said.
“They’re a quick team. We have a lot of speed as well.
“We realized we play our best when we play our game, a physical nature. We can’t quit. We just have to believe the puck is ours. We can’t allow them to win the battles.”
Notes: The fourth-place Tomahawks have an 8-7-1 record and 17 points. The Fighting Falcons are 10-2-3 with 23 points atop the North Division. ... Spence said the Tomahwks have traded forward Colin Finkhouse to the USPHL’s Bay State Breakers for cash. Spence said a deal to move defenseman Trevor Heuser is almost finalized, and forward Ryan McNeely will return to college. ... Forward Brandon Reinholz leads the Tomahawks with five goals and 12 points. Forward Joe Drabin has four goals, 11 points and a plus-7 rating. Drabin has three goals and five points in his past five games, including a two-goal outing against Soo last week. ... Goaltender Alex Okicki is 6-5-2 with a 2.35 goals against average and .911 save percentage in 12 games. Netminder Brett Young has no record in 41:15 of play, but Spence said the Livonia, Mich., native will start tonight.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.