Tomahawks vs. Titans – Sept. 27, 2019

Johnstown Tomahawks forward Spencer DenBeste (rear) celebrates his goal with Pavel Kahrin and Carson Grainer 12 seconds into their game on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, against the New Jersey Titans at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial. 

Spencer DenBeste answered his cell phone late in the offseason and listened.

The forward from Marquette, Michigan, also saw an opportunity to join a Johnstown Tomahawks organization coming off a record-breaking 2018-19 North American Hockey League season.

“I got a call last minute and heard it was Johnstown,” said DenBeste, who has been one of the Tomahawks more productive players in the past month. “I knew last year they were really well. 

“I thought it would be an awesome spot.

“Coach Letizia has just given me a great opportunity. I just want to keep it going well, keep working hard, come to the rink every day ready to go.”

DenBeste spent most of the past three seasons with the NAHL’s Springfield Jr. Blues.

The 6-foot-1 veteran has five goals, two assists and seven points in his past six games. Overall, DenBeste has eight goals and 13 points for the Tomahawks, who open a three-game set against the Jamestown Rebels at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.

“Spencer has stepped into our team this season and become an immediate contributor,” Johnstown coach Mike Letizia said. “He is a veteran of junior hockey whose style perfectly fits into how we want to play. He consistently plays hard, plays physical and makes skilled plays to go with it.”

Letizia specifically pointed to Johnstown’s wild 7-6 overtime victory over the Minnesota Magicians on the final day of the NAHL Showcase on Sept. 21 in Blaine, Minnesota.

“I remember the last game of the NAHL Showcase in 3-on-3 overtime,” Letizia said. “He broke up a play that was coming into our zone, threw a huge hit to get possession, then led the play up the ice and made a great drop pass to Stocky (Bennett Stockdale) for a breakaway, game-winning goal.

“The combination of physicality and skill that he possesses is such an important ingredient to our team.”

The second-place Tomahawks (10-6-3) have 23 points. Jamestown (5-11-2) has 12 points and is seventh in the East Division.

“This weekend is three big games,” DenBeste said. “We want to get six points. We don’t want to look any farther ahead than (Thursday) though. We will take it one shift at a time. 

“One play at a time.”

DenBeste has played 84 NAHL games since 2016-17. He’s also had a pair of four-game stays in the United States Hockey League with Cedar Rapids and Sioux City in 2017-18 as well as 17 games in the British Columbia Hockey League last season with Prince George.

“The experience is a big help,” said DenBeste, who already has committed to Lake Superior State. “When I came here, half of the team, more than half the team, has been in the league two or three years. The more games you play in this league, the better off. You know what to expect.”

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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