An eager Johnstown Tomahawks squad thrilled the home crowd with an urgent start to begin Friday’s North American Hockey League game at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.
The Tomahawks pounced on the Maine Nordiques with an offensive fury, setting a tone the visitors were unable to match.
Twelve Tomahawks players tallied at least one point as the home squad scored a trio of goals in each of the first two periods.
Despite allowing three goals in the third period, Johnstown began its two-game home series against Maine with an impressive 6-3 victory.
“Jacob Badal’s goal definitely got the boys going,” said Tomahawks forward Jake Black, who led the offense with two goals and one assist. “It’s something we talked about before, getting a good start. They haven’t played in two weeks so we knew they would have bus lags. We wanted to hop on them early, which was definitely a big thing for us.”
Johnstown, which outshot Maine 38-27, evened its record at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the NAHL East Division.
By lighting up the lamp early and frequently, Tomahawks goaltender Tommy Heaney was able to settle in during his first start. The 14th-round pick in July’s entry draft blanked Maine through two periods and finished with 24 saves in his NAHL debut.
“Obviously, he did a great job,” Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia said. “There in the third period when things got a little sloppy, a couple goals found their way in. He was rock-solid for us all game. Credit to him, he didn’t look nervous. He looked dialed in.”
After a Maine (5-4) turnover near the red line, Badal scored off of a give and go with Black 3:31 into the game as Johnstown led 1-0. Sean Ramsay provided the first of his two assists.
Just over six minutes later, Black beat Maine goaltender Avery Sturtz on a rebound. Ramsay and Cole Bianchin netted assists on the play.
Johnstown killed off a penalty and took advantage of its man advantage with 4:54 left in the opening stanza. Johnny Ulicny’s top-shelf wrister was scored just before the Tomahawks’ power play ended. TJ Koufis and Mack Oliphant provided the assists on the team’s fifth shot on goal during the power play.
“I thought we were really strong from the start of the game,” Letizia said. “I think our legs were moving, we had a lot of jump. We dictated the pace quite a bit.”
The Tomahawks’ attack never in the second period, adding another trio of goals. Holt Oliphant one-timed a shot into the right side of the net off feeds from Stephen Kyrkostas and Zachary Murray just 54 seconds into the frame. With assists to David Wilcox and Dusty Geregach, Black beat Sturtz with a top-shelf wrister 3:10 into the period, his ninth of the season. Sturtz was pulled for Gus Holt after Johnstown led 5-0.
Kyrkostas greeted Holt with a power-play goal into the far left side of the net. Mack Oliphant and Koufis assisted on the play as the Tomahawks took a commanding 6-0 advantage.
Maine cut into Johnstown’s lead in the third period. Dom Marcinkevics scored a short-handed goal with assists to Brendan Gibbons and Spencer Bellina 7:29 into the period. Jonny Meiers added goal with 7:31 left. Nicholas Bernardo’s goal cut the deficit down to 6-3 with 5:17 left as Letizia called timeout.
Johnstown retained the 6-3 advantage. The Tomahawks killed off all five of Maine’s power plays. Johnstown went 2-for-6 on the power play.
A balanced effort helped the Tomahawks soar.
“Different guys scoring and different ways we were scoring,” Letizia said. “The power play looked pretty good. We scored a couple times, but we also got a couple good looks that we didn’t put in. It was a good depth effort, different guys chipping in with multiple assists on goals, which means guys were involved.”
The teams meet again at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Jake Oswalt is a copy editor for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TheWizOfOz11.