The Johnstown Tomahawks had dominated nearly 58 minutes of Friday night’s North American Hockey League game against the Maryland Black Bears.
Somehow, a seemingly comfortable two-goal advantage disappeared after the Black Bears scored twice in the final 2:31 at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.
Johnstown’s John Gelatt wasn’t about to let his team go into a COVID-19 pandemic-related break with a loss.
Fresh off a NAHL East Division Star of the Week performance last weekend, Gelatt converted a Maryland turnover into a goal 39 seconds into the 3-on-3 overtime session, giving the Tomahawks a 3-2 victory that sent the limited-sized crowd estimated at 500 home happy.
“They made a turnover, so I knew I could just jump on it,” Gelatt said of his 11th goal of the season. “I didn’t get it at first but I stuck with it. I knew I had (Tomahawks forward Jay) Ahearn with me but there was a guy coming on the back-check.
“I saw that the guy was kind of stepping on me so I cut to the middle and just tried to put a puck on net. Luckily it went in and was a big two points for us.”
The Tomahawks moved into first place with 19 points, but the late two-goal surge by Maryland earned the Black Bears a point and a share of first.
Johnstown passed the Maine Nordiques, who had 18 points but lost 5-1 to the New Jersey Titans on Friday.
“I thought we played a pretty good game and obviously dictated play quite a bit,” Johnstown coach Mike Letizia said after the ’Hawks outshot
Maryland 49-21. “Then, two little things happen and it ends up being a tie game.
“We talked to the guys at the break. We gave them a minute to recompose. I told them, ‘Hey, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. Clear our heads. Turn the page.’ We did it pretty early. John again steps up in a big way.”
Brendan Clark appeared to score early in the game on a Tomahawks power play, but the goal was waved off because of goaltender interference.
Johnstown defenseman Caden Lewandowski put one in that counted at 8:49 of the opening period. Clark came from behind the net and put a shot on goal from the near post and the rebound went to Lewandowski in the right-wing circle as he pinched in from the point for his second goal of the season.
“I thought we were peppering away in the first,” Letizia said. “It was nice to see the puck pop out to Lewy and he made no mistake.”
The Tomahawks made it 2-0 via Reed Stark’s second goal of the season at 8:19 of the second.
“Starky has been playing well, but he just can’t find one,” Letizia said. “That was a big goal for him. I’m sure he felt pretty good about that one.”
Tomahawks goaltender Sam Evola stopped all 11 shots he faced through two periods.
Maryland had 10 shots in the third, with Daniel Colabuto and Josh Waters scoring 59 seconds apart to tie the game at 2-all at 18:28.
“It shows a lot about our team,” Gelatt said. “We found a way to win. Giving up those two late goals really did stink. We didn’t want to go to overtime. We gave up one point to them, but at least we got the two.”
The Tomahawks already have postponed Saturday night’s game against the Black Bears based on Gov. Tom Wolf’s new guidelines and restrictions announced on Thursday in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This weekend was supposed to be the start of an eight-game homestand. But two games scheduled next week at 1st Summit Arena also have been postponed.
“That would have been a sting in our butt,” Letizia said of a potential loss ahead of a long break. “I’ve always said you’ve got to take things one day at a time. We’re happy about this one. We’ll have some time off. We’ll be ready to go as soon we’re given the go ahead.”