Johnstown Tomahawks vs. Maryland Black Bears – Jan. 17, 2020

The Johnstown Tomahawks’ Bennett Stockdale lands on top of Maryland Black Bears goaltender Cooper Black during their game on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.  

Johnstown Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia thought he saw a spark during a Tuesday practice after he juggled his forward lines.

Left wing Noah Basarab and right wing Bennett Stockdale had played together much of the North American Hockey League season. Letizia inserted center Tristan Poissant into the mix.

The move paid off immediately as the line was part of all three goals in the Tomahawks’ 3-2 victory over the Maryland Black Bears in front of 2,731 fans at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.

“They were dynamite,” Letizia said. “We mixed things up a little bit. 

“Some new things, some looks. 

“We were trying to see if we could get some good chemistry.”

Instant chemistry in this case.

Stockdale scored 1 minute, 29 seconds into the game, as Poissant and Matt Doyle had assists.

Basarab netted the first of his two goals on the night at 5:43 of the first. Stockdale, who finished with three points, set up the goal with help from Liam Whitehouse.

“When we practiced on Tuesday I saw some good feel between Tristan and Bennett,” Letizia said. “Bassy and Bennett have been playing together for the rest of the season. 

“We gave it a shot and those three guys really stepped up. They had a fantastic night.”

The Tomahawks had a 26-save performance from David Tomeo.

Johnstown displayed grit throughout the game as the players delivered a message while facing the team involved in the Nov. 23 incident that resulted in captain Chris Trouba’s season-ending neck injury.

“He’s our captain. He’d do it for us,” Stockdale said. “Everyone wanted to chip in and win the game first and then make sure that people know we’re not going to be pushed around this year.”

A 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman, Whitehouse fought Maryland’s forward Cameron Recchi 2:50 into the final period. 

Recchi, the son of former Penguins star and current Pittsburgh assistant coach, received a roughing penalty while Whitehouse got an instigating minor, fighting major and game misconduct.

“They’re a family in there,” Letizia said. 

“Obviously, things happen over the course of time. Sometimes it’s how it goes. 

“Ultimately we wanted the two points more than anything.

“This team is going to stick up for each other through thick and thin. They’re not going to back down from anything.”

Reid Leibold got Maryland within 2-1 on his power-play goal 10:05 into the second period. But Basarab made it 3-1 only 31 seconds later.

Aden Bruich converted on the major power play at 3:57 of the third, but Tomeo and the Tomahawks held off the Black Bears.

The win came in front of a big crowd celebrating Charlie Johnson bobblehead night in honor of the longtime hockey and baseball volunteer.

“It was awesome,” Stockdale said. “It was a really good atmosphere. It was a lot of fun.”

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.

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