MIDDLETOWN, N.J. – The Johnstown Tomahawks forced a decisive Game 5 in their East Division Final series against the New Jersey Titans by winning 3-1 on the road on Saturday night.
The Tomahawks will host the Titans at 6 p.m. Sunday at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.
The winner will advance to the North American Hockey League Robertson Cup semifinal round in Blaine, Minnesota.
After dropping two straight games in the series, the Tomahawks established themselves early on Saturday in Game 4.
Samuel Solensky chipped a pass from Oliver Benwell past Brandon Perrone at 15:07 of the first period.
“They were buzzing. They were creating chances,” Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia said. “Ollie made a nice strong play along the wall. He threaded the needle to Sammy.”
Roman Kraemer added a goal just over 2 minutes later to make it 2-0. Cameron Hebert had an assist.
“They wanted to make sure they came out the right way,” Letizia said of the first period in which his team posted an 18-4 advantage in shots on goal. “We talked about having a good start to this game, dictating that it was going to be ours.”
The Titans cut the lead to 2-1 with a goal by Ryan Naumovski at 14:56 of the second period.
Johnstown padded the margin via Benwell’s power-play goal at 8:23 of the final period.
“Third period, we were hoping our power play would come through for us at some point,” Letizia said.
“We’ve been struggling on the power play the last couple games.”
Goaltender Carter McPhail made 24 saves. Perrone stopped 25 shots.
“When we needed it, Carter made some big saves,” Letizia said.
The Tomahawks and Titans each had a 51/2-hour drive back to Johnstown.
“Two games in a row. Traveling back. Having to play a fifth game. Three games in three days,” Letizia said of the situation. “We have to make sure we take advantage of home ice.
“We’ll try to get a quick rest and get back to the rink Sunday afternoon,” he added. “It’s a quick turnaround, but it’s the playoffs. We’re going to take whatever schedule we’re thrown and try to make the best of it.”
Leading scorer Carson Briere didn’t play on Saturday after picking up a gross misconduct in Friday’s loss.
“He’ll be back (Sunday),” Letizia said.