Tomahawks vs. Nordiques

Tomahawks forward #20 Holt Oliphant puts a shot on Nordiques goaltender #29 Tyrig Outen on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, at 1st Summit Arena.

The Johnstown Tomahawks will continue a longstanding local hockey tradition, but fans won’t be permitted to watch the annual New Year’s Eve game at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

The Tomahawks announced on Monday that the New Year’s Eve game against the Northeast Generals will be played at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

The same teams will meet at 1 p.m. on Friday – New Year’s Day.

Fans will not be permitted at either NAHL contest at 1st Summit Arena.

“It is unfortunate to not be able to pack the place like we usually would for New Year’s, but it’s an adjustment and we will be ready to play,” Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia said.

The Tomahawks adapted in accordance to Gov. Tom Wolf’s recently mandated government regulations regarding the number of people permitted inside a venue during an event. The Tomahawks organization noted in a release that the team is deemed “equal to a professional sports organization and therefore remain allowed to play.”

The New Year’s Eve game is a Johnstown tradition that extends beyond the Tomahawks’ arrival in the city for the 2012-13 NAHL season.

The former professional ECHL Johnstown Chiefs went 13-4-3 in New Year’s Eve home games, with 11 sellouts at the War Memorial.

Through last year’s 7-2 victory over the Maine Nordiques, the Tier II Junior Tomahawks are 6-1-1 on New Year’s Eve with four 1st Summit Arena sellouts.

This will be the first year since the Tomahawks moved to Johnstown that the team will not host 3,000 or more fans during the New Year’s Eve game.

Wolf on Dec. 10 announced an order for three weeks of tightened restrictions aimed at alleviating the strain on the state’s health care system as COVID-19 cases surged across the state.

The measures included a ban on indoor dining, a reduction on crowd sizes, canceling scholastic sports and in-person extracurricular scholastic activities, closing gyms and casinos, and limiting retail stores to 50% capacity. In-person businesses have been allowed to operate at up to 75% capacity. The restrictions are in place through Jan. 4.

Prior to the mandate, the Tomahawks had been one of the few NAHL teams still permitted to host fans during this season of uncertainty.

“We actually have been pretty lucky compared to other teams in the NAHL,” Tomahawks front office staffer Derek Partsch said. “Most of our divisional rivals have not played in front of fans all season. We obviously want to play in front of the most loyal fan base in the league, so we are working every day to make that happen.”

The Tomahawks had been set to begin an eight-game home stand when the restrictions were announced. The Hawks edged visiting Maryland 3-2 on Dec. 11, one day before the mandates took effect.

Games on Dec. 12, 18 and 19 were postponed.

Tomahawks season ticket holders should hold their tickets for future use.

Fans may stream the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day games live on HockeyTV.

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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