Crowded net

New Jersey Titans goaltender Louden Hogg looks through a crowded area in front of the net, trying to keep his eye on the puck against the Johnstown Tomahawks during their game on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial. 

The Johnstown Tomahawks were prepared to open an eight-game homestand on Friday night at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.

The ’Hawks will play the Maryland Black Bears at 7:30 p.m. Friday, but the homestand suddenly turned into a one-game affair with a day-to-day approach to the schedule following Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement of new COVID-19 mitigation restrictions on Thursday afternoon.

“We’re looking at what game is in front of us and to control what we can control,” Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia said. “There are so many outside factors and things you can’t control. You’ve got to make the best of each day with what is in front of you.”

The Tomahawks said 500 fans are permitted at Friday’s game so ticket sales are limited.

The scheduled game between the Tomahawks and Black Bears on Saturday night has been postponed, as well as scheduled home games against the New Jersey Titans on Dec. 18-19. After that, the Tomahawks will determine whether or not to play the remainder of the games in the homestand.

“The game is on for Friday. The office is going to review everything in accordance with the restrictions and make the best decision,” Letizia said.

Wolf’s temporary mitigation restrictions go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and expire at 8 a.m. on Jan. 4.

Professional sports teams are permitted to play during the three-week period. The Tomahawks play in the North American Hockey League, an amateur Tier II Junior A league.

“Although the Tomahawks have received multiple documents deeming them as equal to a professional sports organization and therefore allowed to compete, the organization determined to pause play,” a news release from the Tomahawks noted.

The Tomahawks (7-3-3, 17 points) enter Friday’s action in third place, one point behind Maryland (8-4-2, 18 points) and the Maine Nordiques (9-4, 18 points), who are tied atop the NAHL East Division.

“It’s obviously a big game for us. It’s a team we’re battling, a team we’ve had battles with all season long,” Letizia said. “We dropped two contests out there. This is a huge game, especially at home. They’re a big, strong veteran team. We’ll have our work cut for us.”

Saturday’s postponement will be rescheduled at a later date. The Tomahawks announced the Dec. 18-19 postponed games against New Jersey will be moved to March 26-27.

Pennsylvania is temporarily halting scholastic sports and other extracurricular activities while also ordering gyms, theaters and casinos to close, and banning indoor dining at restaurants as COVID-19 cases surge. The number of people allowed at indoor and outdoor events also is limited.

“With these measures in place, I hope that we accomplish three goals,” Wolf said on Thursday. “First, we want to stop the devastating spread of COVID-19. Second, I want to keep our hospitals and our healthcare workers from becoming overwhelmed.

“The third thing is to help Pennsylvanians get through the holiday season and closer to a widely available vaccine as the light at the end of the tunnel as safely as possible,” Wolf said. “This is a bridge to that better future that we all know we can get to in Pennsylvania.” 

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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