After nearly a month of postponements related to COVID-19, the Johnstown Tomahawks returned to the ice Friday night at home against the New Jersey Titans. 

Despite spotting the Titans an early one-goal lead, Johnstown quickly regained the momentum with two goals in a span of 1:42 later in the first period and went on to earn a 4-2 victory at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial. 

“It’s been a long time,” said Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia, whose team last played in a 6-2 win over the Northeast Generals in Attleboro, Massachusetts, on Oct. 23. “It feels awesome to get these two points at home.”

Goaltender Sam Evola turned away 20 of 22 shots for the Tomahawks (4-0-3), while Jay Ahearn tallied the go-ahead goal and added an assist for Johnstown. 

“It feels amazing to be back,” said Ahearn. “You couldn’t have asked for a better game tonight.”

New Jersey (4-4-4) jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Matt Doyle wristed a shot from just inside the blue line 3:45 into the game, with Caleb Price and Levente Kerestes picking up assists on the play. 

The Titans were looking to add to that advantage on a power play five minutes later, but the Tomahawks answered with a short-handed goal when Drew Murphy scored on a shot from between the circles at the 9:25 mark. Max Neill added the assist on that equalizer. 

“It took us a little time to readjust,” Letizia said. “That short-handed goal was huge.”

Less than two minutes later, Ahearn won the battle for a loose puck in the Titans zone and scored on an unassisted breakaway to put the Tomahawks up 2-1 at the 11:07 mark of the first. 

“It felt great to get the puck on a breakaway,” Ahearn said. “I was looking to go five-hole and beat him with the backhand.”

Johnstown went ahead by two goals 5:02 into the second when John Gelatt scored his fourth goal of the season off a nice feed from Brendan Clark. However, the Titans later pulled within 3-2 on a power-play goal at 11:48. Keresztes buried a shot from the right circle, with Price and Jake Suede assisting. 

The Tomahawks were able to reply with 2:55 left in the second when Alex Gritz found the back of the net from just left of the crease, with Ahearn and Matt McQuade providing the assists on the play. 

Evola and the Tomahawks’ defense were able to make that two-goal margin hold up during a scoreless third period. Johnstown outshot the Titans in each period, ending with a 35-22 overall advantage. 

“It’s nice to get that many pucks on the net,” Letizia said. “We’ve got to clean some things up, but all things considered, it was a good effort.”

The two teams meet again at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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