Holt Oliphant

The Johnstown Tomahawks' Holt Oliphant leaps out of the way of a slap shot as Maine Nordiques goaltender Avery Sturtz makes the save on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial. 

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The Johnstown Tomahawks stormed back from an early deficit Saturday night and came away with a 5-2 victory over the Maine Nordiques at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.

Maine (5-5) scored twice in the first seven minutes of the contest, but the Tomahawks (6-5) regained momentum with a strong second period to take a one-goal lead, then added a couple of insurance tallies in the final period to earn a sweep of the two-game weekend series.

“We expected them (Maine) to come out with some jump and pace,” Johnstown coach Mike Letizia said. “We weren’t playing poorly, necessarily, they were just coming hard.

“They got a couple of good looks and put the pucks in.”

Johnstown goaltender Sam Evola survived the early Nordique surge, as he turned away 31 of 33 shots and kept Maine off the board for the last 521/2 minutes of the game to earn the win and improve to 5-3 on the year.

“Sammy was rock-solid, and had a heck of a game,” Letizia said. “Before we got our offense going, he made some really nice saves and calmed the game down.”

Tomahawks forward Jake Black scored his 10th and 11th goals of the year to move into a three-way tie for the league lead, and Jacob Badal tallied a pair of assists to pace the Johnstown offense.

Maine got on the board 2:50 into the game when Ignat Belov fired in a shot from between the circles on assists from Tristan Fasig and Caden Pattinson. The Nordiques added to that lead at the 7:37 mark when Zion Green chipped one in from just in front of the crease, assisted by Fasig.

Later in the first period, with the Nordiques on a power play, Badal dumped a clearing pass toward the Maine zone, where a streaking Black was able to win a battle for the loose puck.

He then skated in and beat Nordiques goaltender Avery Sturtz for a short-handed goal to pull the Tomahawks within one at 15:11.

“That short-handed goal really got us going,” said Letizia.

Johnstown got the equalizer at 1:22 of the second period when Zachary Murray scored his seventh of the year on an unassisted tally, and the contest remained deadlocked until a fortuitous bounce allowed the Tomahawks to take the lead for good at 17:05.

Badal came up with a loose puck behind the Maine net and passed it out to Black, who fired a shot from the right circle. Sturtz made the initial save, but the rebound deflected off the skate of a Nordiques defender on the left side of the crease and caromed back into the net for the go-ahead goal.

Ethan Perrault was also credited with an assist on the play.

“I got a lucky bounce,” Black said. “But we made them turn the puck over, and my linemate Jake Badal hit me right in the slot for a good play that turned into a good goal.”

“We got behind, but we regrouped, got back to basics and it paid off.”

David Matousek gave the Tomahawks some breathing room when he notched his third goal of the season on a feed from TJ Koufis at 2:01 of the third, and Dusty Geregach’s empty-netter sealed the outcome with 22 seconds remaining.

“We’ve had some ups and downs to start the year,” said Letizia. “We were .500 after 10 games, and in the next 10 games we want to play well over .500 hockey.”

The Tomahawks will return home for a two-game weekend series with New Jersey beginning on Oct. 29 after a pair of contests at Danbury.

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