Tomahawks – Holt Oliphant, Jared Gerger, Max Neill

Johnstown Tomahawks players Holt Oliphant (left) and Jared Gerger (right) celebrate a third-period goal by Max Neill (center) during a game against the Maryland Black Bears on Saturday, March 13, 2021, at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown. The Tomahawks won in overtime, 4-3.

Will Margel certainly knows how to start an early birthday celebration.

The Johnstown Tomahawks first-year forward ripped a shot from the top of the left-wing circle and tucked it inside the far post 1 minute, 3 seconds into overtime in a 4-3 victory over the Maryland Black Bears at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.

“They came in the zone and fumbled the puck,” said Margel, who will turn 20 on Tuesday and was greeted by his mom with birthday balloons after the game. “I just took it behind the net. I knew I could beat the first guy. They had hard back-checkers so I was trying to delay a little bit. We did a little switch at the blue line. It kind of mixed them up a little bit.

“I saw I had a little room to go in. I just shot it and it went in. It was good to get the win.”

Margel skated hard down the right wing and got almost to the goal line, with Alex Gritz trailing the play and open on the left side.

Gritz went left-to-right into the opposite circle, and Margel maneuvered to his left. The Black Bears defense was positioned on the right side, giving Margel an open shot that he placed perfectly behind goaltender Michael Morelli.

“‘Margs’ is dynamic,” Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia said of Margel. “You like your chances when the puck is on his stick in the offensive zone. He has confidence. He makes some shifty plays at the blue line to shake a couple defenders. ... That’s as good of a shot as you’re going to see.”

The first-place Tomahawks won their 15th consecutive game at 1st Summit Arena. Maryland dropped its 12th straight contest overall, though the Black Bears played the ‘Hawks tough on Friday and Saturday.

“It’s pretty obvious how confident we are going into every game,” said Margel, who has 10 goals and 21 points. “They played well. They played hard, especially after (Friday). It was good to stay calm and keep our composure. We didn’t let it affect us.”

Maryland led 1-0 on Josh Nixon’s goal 14:09 into the game.

The Tomahawks’ Holt Oliphant tied the score only 15 seconds into the middle frame, but the Black Bears reestablished a lead after Reid Leibold beat Sam Evola in a one-on-one situation 13:44 into the second.

“We came out and scored a big goal 15 seconds in,” Letizia said. “Unfortunately, we gave that one back. We bounce back with two to go up. We gave that one up to go to overtime. 'Margs' obviously with an absolute laser beam. What a shot that was.”

The wild ride included Tomahawks goals by William Persson on the power play at 11:06 of the third and by Max Neill from Oliphant at 12:38 to make it 3-2.

But Maryland’s Garret Szydlowski tied the game with only 3:33 left.

“We had a lot of contributions,” said Letizia, who praised the combination of center Jared Gerger and wings Neill and Oliphant. “I thought 'Gerg's' line (did well). We had them together a couple months ago, then with different things we moved some guys around. We put them back together the other night, and they had two out of our three goals (in regulation).”

The Tomahawks will play three home games against the Northeast Generals next weekend.

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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Sports Reporter

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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