USA Hockey's National Team Development Program (17U) vs. Johnstown Tomahawks

The Johnstown Tomahawks’ North American Hockey League season-opening series against the Maryland Black Bears will be moved to a different date and site due to Maryland’s COVID-19 guidelines.

The Tomahawks now will visit the Black Bears at 7 p.m. on Sunday, and the teams will meet again at 11:30 a.m. on Monday. Both games will be played at Ice World in Abingdon, Maryland.

“We know as a team this is going to be a different season and you have to prepare for anything that is thrown your way,” Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact.

Originally, the games were to be played on Friday and Saturday at Piney Orchard, the traditional home of the Black Bears.

According to a Black Bears announcement, Piney Orchard is prohibited from hosting out-of-state teams because Anne Arundel County is not in Phase 3 of Maryland’s Recovery Plan.

Many other Maryland counties moved to Phase 3 early last month, the announcement noted.

“Luckily, we have a home away from home,” the Black Bears official team website post stated. “We will be playing our first two games of the season at Ice World.”

Ice World includes two NHL-sized rinks but has limited seating. The game will be streamed on HockeyTV.

“To be honest, it gives you a little bit of adjustment to make, but the general consensus among everybody is we’re just super excited to be able to play,” Letizia said. “Ironically, our last game played seven months ago was in Maryland. We’re returning back there but only in a different location.”

The Tomahawks beat the Black Bears 1-0 at Piney Orchard in Odenton, Maryland on March 7 and gave Letizia his 200th career coaching win late in the 2019-20 NAHL regular season.

The NAHL paused its schedule on March 12 and eventually canceled the remainder of the season as well as the Robertson Cup playoffs due to COVID-19. 

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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