The fact that the Johnstown Tomahawks beat the Maryland Black Bears in overtime for a second straight night on Saturday was significant.
Christian Gorscak sealed the 5-4 victory with a nifty back-hander 40 seconds into the extra session in front of 2,367 fans at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.
But in the moments after another wild back-and-forth game, the Tomahawks’ thoughts were on the health of captain Chris Trouba, the fourth-year Johnstown defenseman, even more than the win.
“After Trouba’s injury, the guys did it for him,” Gorscak said.
Trouba was checked from behind into the boards 8 seconds into the second period.
He was down on the ice for an extended period before medical personnel transported him across the rink on a stretcher.
Coach Mike Letizia said preliminary reports from the hospital were encouraging.
“Early indications are that he has feeling,” Letizia said shortly after the game concluded.
“They’re going to run scans and X-rays. A lot of pain. Obviously, it was a pretty dangerous hit from behind. Something you don’t love to see.
“Hopefully it’s something that’s not major.”
Maryland’s Cameron Recchi received a 5-minute major penalty and game misconduct for checking from behind on the play.
“It took a toll on a lot of guys,” said Tomahawks forward Pavel Kharin, whose goal with 1:52 remaining in regulation tied the game at 4-all. “He’s always a guy that gets right back up and plays through it. Seeing him laying there like that just really hit it home for everyone there.
“It threw us off. But in the end you’ve just got to fight through it, get back to what you’ve got to do and just get it done.”
After a lengthy delay, Trouba was taken off the ice as his teammates and Letizia accompanied him, surrounding the stretcher, as the medical crew took their captain from one end of the arena to the entrance near Section 11.
“It definitely brought us together,” Kharin said. “We had a little bit of a slip there. But everyone eventually came back together, worked through it and got it done.”
The mental toll on the team was apparent. Johnstown led 3-0 through two periods, but Maryland scored four times in the third to lead 4-3.
The storyline was similar to Friday night, when the Tomahawks led 2-0, fell behind 4-2, eventually forced OT and won, 5-4.
“Going up three goals is a nice feeling going into the third, but we were having it rough with Trouba going down pretty hard there,” Kharin said of Saturday’s rollercoaster ride.
The Tomahawks scored twice in the final 3:56 of the first period.
Spencer DenBeste converted on the power play at 16:04 for his third straight game with a goal. He put in a rebound of Tristan Poissant’s shot from close range.
Defenseman Quinn Warmuth lifted the puck from the left side past Maryland’s Andrew Takacs with 1:45 remaining in the period. It was Warmuth’s first goal since Oct. 11.
Max Kouznetsov converted on a power play with a one-timer from Bennett Stockdale to make it 3-0 with 1:36 left in the second period.
In the third, Johnstown took three penalties, and the Black Bears began to click.
Jude Kurtas scored a rebound goal into an open net 43 seconds into the third against former Black Bear goalie David Tomeo. Wilmer Skoog tallied a pair of power-play goals 39 seconds apart to tie the game at 3-all at 7:17.
Jackson Sterrett gave Maryland a 4-3 advantage with a 4-on-4 goal at 8:35.
Kharin scored in back-to-back games via his goal at 18:08.
“We obviously gave them everything they had in the third period,” Letizia said. “We got away from ourselves and started taking uncharacteristic penalties. They were able to capitalize and put us on our heels.
“We showed a lot of resolve to tie it back up and then Gorscak with a beauty to win it.”