After a 12-day layoff, the Johnstown Tomahawks returned to home ice Friday night in the opener of a two-game weekend series against the Northeast Generals.
The Tomahawks looked more rejuvenated than rusty after the long break, as Johnstown rallied from a one-goal second-period deficit and scored four consecutive goals en route to a 6-4 win at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial, snapping a two-game losing skid in the process.
“I definitely thought our work ethic was better than two weeks ago,” said Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia, whose club improved to 8-6-2 and pulled within two points of third-place Northeast (10-9-0) in the NAHL East Division standings. “We still have some things to shore up, there was a little sloppiness, but I thought we had a good effort.”
Johnstown’s offense got contributions from throughout the lineup, as five different Tomahawks scored goals, and seven different players tallied assists, including goaltender Tommy Heaney.
“You have to have contributions from all over to be successful,” Letizia said. “Everybody chipped in a little bit.”
Jake Black scored his team-leading 13th and 14th goals and picked up an assist, while Jacob Badal tallied one goal and notched three assists for the Tomahawks. Heaney earned the win in net by turning away 25 of 29 shots and improved his record to 3-0-1.
The Generals got on the board first when Jared Scott led a two-man break into the Johnstown zone and scored on a feed from Tyler Desrochers, but it took the Tomahawks just 44 seconds to answer.
Badal picked up a loose puck in the Northeast end and beat Cullen DeYoung on a shot from the left side to tie it at the 10:00 mark.
Black put the Tomahawks on top 1:27 later when he scored on assists from Badal and Sean Ramsay, but the Generals came out strong to start the second period.
Ryan Gordon tied it at the 10:08 mark on a feed from Martin Marnauzs, and Northeast regained the lead on Kyle Schroeder’s unassisted goal at 12:31.
However, just as in the first period, it didn’t take long for Johnstown to respond. Stephen Kyrkostas found room up the left side of the ice and wristed one from the left circle to tie it 3-all just 30 seconds later. Braedon Ford and Heeney picked up assists on the play.
“I thought it was one of the biggest things that we scored quickly after they got their goals,” Letizia said.
The Tomahawks subsequently cashed in their lone power play of the night to take the lead for good. Dusty Geregach netted his fourth goal of the year when he ripped a shot from between the circles on assists from Black and Badal at 14:41 of the period.
“It’s never fun to start a game down a goal,” Geregach said. “We did a lot of the right things. We played with a lot of energy and physicality, a lot better than before the break.”
Johnstown pulled away in the third period. Ryan Vellucci scored on assists by Egan Schmitt and Noah Wagner with just under eight minutes to play, and Black completed the Tomahawks’ scoring on Badal’s third helper of the game at 16:24.
“It feels good to be back,” Badal said. “We brought it for a full 60, and even when we were down, we were still working hard, and it paid off.”
The Generals pulled within two on Ryan Corcoran’s goal with 1:02 to play, and the Tomahawks had to kill off a Northeast power play to finish out the contest.
The two teams will conclude the series Saturday with a 7 p.m. faceoff.