December 29, 2013

Johnstown Hosting Michigan in New Year's Eve Showdown

Written by: Mike Gosnell

Goals: Colin Larkin and Jake Hopfner – 11
Assists: Jon Farkas – 16
Points:  Zack Szajner – 24
PIMS: Jon Farkas – 87
+/-: Ryan Dougherty -  +10

GOALIES                              Record                        GAA               SV%
Trevor Gorsuch                       8-4-4                2.67                 .910
Dillon Kelley                           7-6-3                2.66                 .905

Moe Mantha: Head Coach
Jon Jepson: Assistant Coach

We are in the thick of the North American Hockey League season and we have intriguing storylines that have dominated the outset of the season. 

One of those storylines is the battle between the Michigan Warriors and the Johnstown Tomahawks. Certainly, it has been a battle between these two teams throughout the season and until Monday and Tuesday, the games have taken place 400 miles away in Flint.

The Tomahawks have a 2-2-0 record against the Warriors and are returning to the Cambria County War Memorial to gain ground on the North Division-leading Port Huron Fighting Falcons, who have cooled off as of late.

Well-respected former NHL player Moe Mantha coaches the Warriors. They come to Johnstown with a 1-3-1 record in their last five games coach the Warriors.

When I look at the two teams playing Monday and Tuesday, I see two identical teams.

Both Johnstown and Michigan rely on contributions throughout the lineup, a smothering defense and reliable goaltending.

Look up and down the lineups and you will not find a player who is running away with the stat sheet. All four lines are utilized and expected to share the load offensively.

Mantha and Spence coach blue-collar teams, who work hard in all three zones, grind it out every night and leave everything on the ice.

Eerily similar, if you ask me.

Expectations were high for both teams prior to the beginning of the season.

Johnstown was expected to be leading this division rather handedly and Michigan was expected to compete for that first place spot.

The Tomahawks have yet to lead the division but both teams are contending for the first place spot in the standings.

Michigan presents a healthy mix of grit and speed and could present some problems for the Tomahawks.
It is sure to be a Physical series between these two teams.

Players to Watch for the Warriors:

AJ Marcinek:

Marcinek is a skilled forward who has performed very well for Mantha throughout his tenure at Michigan. He has had a tough go of it this season, but I think Marcinek will make things happen in Johnstown. Marcinek has 14 points in 31 games for the Warriors.

Jake Hopfner:

A forward with good size and offensive skill, Hopfner will present matchup problems for the Tomahawks. I expect him to use his size and crowd the crease in order to clean up loose pucks. Hopfner has 11 goals and 10 assists in 24 games.

Jake Fairchild:

Fairchild returns to Johnstown after being a last minute cut by Johnstown before the season. He has since found a home in Flint and has provided the same toughness and physicality provided for the Tomahawks. It should be a special two games for him. He has two assists and 21 penalty minutes in 10 games for Michigan.

Keys to Victory:


Score the First Goal:

-          No team enjoys playing from behind and with large crowds expect to inhabit the War Memorial it is important to get the crowd into the game early. It is proven the War Memorial is a very difficult building to play in when the crowd is into the game

Omar Mullan:

-          The NAHL veteran is enduring a scoring slump and has not scored a goal since Nov. 9 against Springfield. Mullan loves playing at home and this could be the chance for him to take over this weekend. Getting him going this weekend is crucial for the Tomahawks.

Capitalize on the Man Advantage:

-          This one is obvious but it is very important. Johnstown is clicking at only 13% and have had a difficult time this season scoring power play goals.


Establish a Forecheck:

-          By pinning the Tomahawks in their own end, you dictate the pace and quiet the crowd. The Warriors need to establish a forecheck and generate offense from below the goal line. When the Tomahawks overload to a side that is when the opportunities become great.

Get Traffic to the Net:

-          The perhaps the best way to make sure you crack Alex Okicki. He will not stop what he cannot see. Mantha should place a forward like Hopfner in front to really create a nightmare for Okicki.
Draw Penalties

-          Get Johnstown off their game and send them to the box. Johnstown has been known to take a surplus of penalties and that can only hurt them.

Final Analysis:

Finally, the Tomahawks have a reprieve from the road and finally the fans can see them play at home.
This is a huge test for Johnstown and they have the opportunity to create some separation between themselves and Michigan.

The Tomahawks have been playing consistent hockey and have managed to pick up points. However, now is the time they need to start sweeping more series and taking more points.
Monday and New Year’s Eve are perfect opportunities to do that.

Spence and crew want to end 2013 on a high and the same can be said for Mantha’s Warriors.

My prediction:

Johnstown Splits with Michigan.

Current Standings:





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