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A quick glance at the scoreboard revealed the Johnstown Tomahawks lost a close game after Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tallied a late goal Saturday night at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.

Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia wasn’t buying that description of a 3-2 loss in front of 2,525 fans.

“They just completely outworked us the entire game. You could watch from the puck drop,” Letizia said of the Knights. “The first period we barely won a face-off. We were on our heels the whole game.

“We were in our D-zone. We turned the puck over unforced. We made ridiculously big errors. If it wasn’t for (goaltender Alex) Tracy, we would have got blown out.”

Tracy made 38 saves as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton outshot the Tomahawks 41-23.

The third-place Knights split the two game series with the second-place Tomahawks.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (45) is 11 points behind Johnstown (56) in the NAHL East Division. The ’Hawks also lost ground to the first-place New Jersey Titans (61 points), who beat the Maine Nordiques 9-2 on Saturday and are five points ahead of Johnstown.

“We’re lucky Alex (Tracy) came to play today because I think for the most part our guys decided just to not bring the game we needed it to be,” Letizia said. “It’s got to be a learning experience for us. You can’t just put your skates on, come to the game and think it’s going to happen if you don’t play the game the right way.

“You’ve got a team over there that’s hungry and they wanted it. Unfortunately today they wanted it more.”

The Tomahawks started with the lead despite being outshot 14-6 in the first period.

Bennett Stockdale got to the right side of the net and a Tristan Poissant shot from the left circle caromed off Stockdale and past goaltender Zach Stejskal (21 saves) 11:55 into the game.

“Credit to Bennett. He got another one in the second period on a nice shot on the power play, but we didn’t have enough,” Letizia said.

The Knights tied the game at 1-all on Anthony Mastromonica’s tip-in goal at 16:09 of the opening period.

In the second, Stockdale converted a power play with assists by Carson Gallagher and Reed Stark at 6:08.

Once again the Knights answered. 

This time Zak Currie scored his 15th of the season at 8:55.

Most of the final period was scoreless until Mastromonica put in a rebound with 3:06 on the clock. The Tomahawks couldn’t clear the puck and the Knights had multiple chances before the game-winner.

“We weren’t willing to go where it was hard,” Letizia said. “In our D-zone, we got beat to pucks. We lost battles around our net. We didn’t tie anybody up.

“All three of their goals came on two deflections we didn’t do anything with, (and) multiple turnovers and a guy just outmuscles us at the net and bangs it home. Those are the things you’ve got to own – own our house – and we didn’t.” 

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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