Rookie Johnstown Tomahawks forward John Gelatt didn’t exactly skate in a homecoming game on Saturday night at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.
Instead, Gelatt’s hometown team came to him.
A native of Middletown, New Jersey, Gelatt had a three-point night as the Tomahawks beat the New Jersey Titans 3-1.
The Titans are based in Middletown, where Gelatt grew up – often skating in the Middletown Sports Complex.
“It’s a lot for me because I used to play there,” said Gelatt, who opened the scoring with his fifth goal of the season. “I live a mile away from the rink. I skate and I train there in the summer. Being able to beat them twice in one weekend is an amazing feeling. It hit home.”
The Tomahawks swept two games against the Titans – on Friday, when Gelatt had one goal, and Saturday.
Originally, the ‘Hawks were supposed to play road games at Danbury, Connecticut, on Thursday and Friday. But the Junior Hat Tricks had to postpone those dates due to COVID-19 issues.
The Titans and Tomahawks worked out an impromptu schedule change. New Jersey was supposed to be idle this weekend.
The adjusted scenario was much better than more time off for the Tomahawks, who had endured three straight weekends of postponements due to situations involving the coronavirus pandemic.
“It started with a good week in practice,” Gelatt said. “We knew it was going to be hard to come back after 28 days without a game. We just had to keep it simple. We knew that would do it for us and if we just played our game, we would win. Luckily we followed the game plan and got two wins and a sweep of the weekend. It feels great.”
Johnstown remains unbeaten in regulation and is 5-0-2-1, with 13 points – one point back of the first-place Maine Nordiques. Fourth-place New Jersey slipped to 4-5-1-3.
The Tomahawks are permitted to have 1,005 people in the War Memorial based upon state guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An estimated 650 fans attended on Saturday and were treated to a dominant performance as the Tomahawks outshot the Titans 43-16 and controlled play most of the night.
The Tomahawks struck first as Gelatt converted on the power play at 10:43.
Defenseman Ryan Poorman took the initial shot from the high slot, and center Anthony Mastromonica deflected the puck with his body and Gelatt buried the rebound from near the right-wing circle.
“Poorman got a good shot to the net. It hit Mastromonica in the chest and just popped out to me,” Gelatt said. “I knew I had to put it in when it came to me and it happened.”
Just over 3 minutes later, New Jersey answered with its own power-play tally by defenseman Tyler Nasca, his second of the season. Forwards Jake LaRusso and Evan Werner set up the game-tying goal.
“Once the power-play goal went in for us – we haven’t had a power-play goal since Game 1 of the season – obviously it was huge to see that go in,” Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia said. “Even though they tied it, we just kept coming. I thought our second and third period, we carried the play for the most part.”
Mastromonica scored his sixth goal 14:23 into the second period with an assist by Gelatt to give the Tomahawks a 2-1 advantage through 40 minutes.
“It was definitely a goal to pick the pace up in the game,” Mastromonica said. “I credit my teammates. I couldn’t have done it without them. Definitely an all-around team effort.”
Poorman scored his first goal of the season, converting with 46 seconds remaining on a 5-minute power play resulting from a major elbowing penalty to the Titans' Tommy Bannister.
“Anytime you can expand the lead in the third period when you have a one-goal game it keeps the momentum on your side,” Gelatt said. “We kept it going after that and didn’t give them much. It was just a great overall team win.”
Tomahawks goaltender Sam Evola made 15 saves and improved to 4-0-1-1. New Jersey netminder Berk Berkeliev had a strong game, turning away 40 Tomahawks shots.
“Their goalie made some big saves,” Letizia said. “Almost 50 shots on the net and we only scored three goals. Credit to him.”
Gelatt’s performance against his hometown team made an impression on his coach.
“He lives in Middletown where that team is based,” Letizia said. “We have a few guys who live right around there and grew up playing there. They have buddies on the opposition. They were pretty excited coming into the weekend and they showed up to play. It was fun to watch.”