A day after earning enough North American Hockey League East Division awards to fill an entire shelf, Johnstown Tomahawks forward Jay Ahearn took another big prize on Wednesday.
Ahearn, who led the league with 31 goals and was second with 62 points during the regular season, was named NAHL Rookie of the Year.
“I had a good feeling that he could have a successful rookie year, but I never would have expected him to do what he did,” said Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia, who had been named East Division Coach of the Year for a third straight season on Tuesday. “Jay led the league in goals. He was outstanding from start to finish.
“He scored our first goal of the season at Maryland. He had the ability to always produce in a lot of high-stakes games. He had a lot of energy. He’s a really good player and he’s going to have a good college career in front of him.”
The Staten Island, New York, native played 52 regular-season games with the Tomahawks, netting 10 power-play goals, which tied for the league lead, and five game-winners on a squad that went 39-10-5 with 83 points atop the East. His 1.19 points per game ranked second in the league.
In four playoff games, Ahearn had five goals and eight points as the top-seeded Tomahawks were stunned by the fourth-seeded Maryland Black Bears in the first round.
On Tuesday, Ahearn had been named NAHL East Division Most Valuable Player, Forward of the Year and Rookie of the Year. He also was a first-team selection in the division and the league.
“It was definitely a really cool feeling,” Ahearn said of receiving division and league-wide recognition over the past two days. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.
“Everyone was great throughout the year. The feeling was cool seeing all those awards.”
Ahearn, 20, committed to NCAA Division I Niagara University in February.
In January, he was named NAHL Forward of the Month after scoring 11 goals and 15 points in only eight games. The 5-foot-11 forward also was twice named East Division Star of the Week during his rookie season.
“I felt like I adjusted really quickly and was loving it there from Day 1,” Ahearn said of playing in Johnstown. “It’s a home away from home in hockey. I adjusted right away and just ran with it.”
His mindset now will switch to preparing for the Division I college game.
“This summer I’m going to be training and getting ready to go to Niagara University,” Ahearn said.
“I’m excited about the next four years there.”
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.