September 30, 2015

Tomahawks' Report Card (NAHL Showcase)

The Johnstown Tomahawks headed to the 2015 NAHL Showcase with a record of 1-1 after splitting the first regular season weekend in Wilkes-Barre and New Jersey. It was the first time in team history that they picked up a win in their opening weekend.

The team looked great against the Knights, controlling most of the game once they went down 2-0. In New Jersey they didn't look bad, but things just didn't go their way. This year's team looked really well put together and you had to give credit to the coaching staff and GM, Rick Boyd, for the work they did in the offseason.

Then, as the team road a bus for the 18 hour (or so) trip to the showcase, they added three more talented offensive pieces to the team. All three players were guys that didn't make their USHL teams, and had spent most of last year with the Tomahawks. Those players were, Luke Lynch, Casey Linkenheld, and Filip Buncis. And as the players exited the bus and made their way into the Swan Super Rink building, the team was even more talented then they were when they first got on the bus.

The Tomahawks would finish the Showcase one game away from sweeping the event, something they had never done before. Even though they did lose their last game, they still finished with a record of 3-1, and held their heads high as they returned to Johnstown with an overall record of 4-2 on the young season. Johnstown still has a couple weeks of road games before they open up their home schedule in Hockeyville.

But before we look to that first home game, we have to review how they did at the showcase. Now this is a little tricky. We weren't there in person. We tried to watch all four games but Fasthockey was having major problems, as all four games were filled with chunks of action missing and terrible buffering problems.

With that said, we can't really tell you how they looked, because even though we were watching the games, we had a really hard time seeing what was going on. We have to do our ratings based on the score-sheets, so that's just what we did.

Remember, as with every report card review we do, this is our opinion and our opinion only. We'd like to hear (see) what grades you'd give the team. Tell us on our Facebook page. Or on Twitter. You can also simply leave a comment on this article.

We like hearing from Hawk Nation.

Offense - When you play four games in a row and can win three of them, you automatically get a high offensive rating. The only game that Johnstown really blew a team away was against Brookings. In that game, the second game of the Showcase, Johnstown scored four unanswered goals to win 4-0. More on that in the goaltending section.

Johnstown kicked off the showcase with a tight 2-1 victory over South division's Corpus Christi IceRays. The third game they played another tight game, finding the edge over Coulee Region, 3-2. In the last game of the showcase, Johnstown fell to Lone Star 5-2 and picked up their second loss of the season.

Kelly O'Brien had a very strong four games for the Tomahawks. He played so well in fact that the NAHL named him an honorable mention for the East Division stars of the week. Along with O'Brien, Alex Alger was also an honorable mention.

The three players sent back to Johnstown from the USHL made an immediate impact with the Tomahawks. Lynch had a goal and an assist in the game vs the IceRays. He had another goal vs Coulee Region.

Linkenheld had two assists vs Brookings. He followed that up with a goal against Coulee Region the next day.

Buncis had a goal and an assist in the loss to Lone Star.

Johnstown didn't score a ton of goals but they got the goals they needed. Hopefully that continues throughout the year. Players like O'Brien, Horn, Heakins, Jaquay, and Delandro, are on pace or already have beat their scoring totals from last season. This is great news as seeing we've only played two weeks of the 2015-2016 NAHL season. Having production from these players, mixed in with guys like Alger, Romano, Lynch, and Linkenheld, will make Johnstown a hard team to defend against.

Defense - Once again, not focusing too much attention on the Lone Star game, Johnstown's defense showed up in the showcase and shut the door, limiting scoring chances against. Only six players were minus against the Chill, and even though they lost 5-3 vs Lone Star, only six players ended with minuses on boxscore as well.

The highlight game for the defense and goaltending was the game vs Brookings, where the team earned the first shutout of the season, 4-0.

Sure, there are a few things that the team needs to tighten up on the defensive side of the puck, but I'll take 3-1 record any week.

Goaltending - Gwillim played two games in the showcase, while DeSimone and Burggabe each played one. Gwillim went 1-1, while the other two goaltenders each won their games they appeared in.

DeSimone, playing in his first game of the season, took his spot in between the pipes and was perfect. Last season when Bednard was out for a little over a month, DeSimone was a nice call up to have, before his season ended due to injury. DeSimone picked up right were he left off last season with stellar play, getting his first shutout at the NAHL level.

With all three goalies getting a win, you can't argue that the Tomahawks' best players in the Showcase were the men in net. A great job by all of them.

Power Play - The power play only scored two goals in seventeen chances. In total the team has four power plays on the season. The way this team has shown to be able to play at even strength, if they can produce more on the power play, the Tomahawks could become the deadliest team to face in the league.

As with last weekend's report card article, it's still too early to worry about the power play, but it is something that hopefully will get better as the weeks move along.

Penalty Kill - The Tomahawks were shorthanded twenty-three times in four games, but only allowed two goals. They also saw themselves on the wrong end of a few 5-3 man advantages. On the season, Johnstown ranks 7th in the league in penalty killing.

There's really no issues with the penalty kill as they are doing, and did at the showcase, a fine job of killing penalties. The issue, as seems to be a trend for Johnstown throughout the years, is taking too many penalties. There's playing tough, and then there's taking dumb penalties.

Johnstown in six games so far this season has a total of 175 penalty minutes, which gives them the lead in the entire league. Taking so many penalties hasn't hurt them yet, but you can only imagine its a matter of time. The best way to kill penalties is to not take them at all, or at least limit their frequency. We'll have to see if the team can become more discipline one as the season goes on.

Final Thoughts - The Tomahawks played well and have all the fans in Johnstown excited to see them play in person. The games we've watched, it seems like this years team is very focused and willing to do the things you have to do to win games. This probably has to do with all of the veteran players the Tomahawks have on their roster this season.

This is the best start to a year Johnstown has had in their brief history, and all Johnstown fans hope it continues. Even though in past seasons the Tomahawks have had slow starts, it's not when the team has played there worst hockey.

That has happened once the new year kicks in. After the change of the calendar, the Tomahawks past teams have hit walls and nosedived. In 2013-2014 they would only win two of their last 15 games, and last season they only won nine of their last twenty-eight games. Hopefully this kind of play doesn't happen again this season, but it's good to see the team picking up points early in the year, which will help if they falter at the end.

Note: The NHL released their Preliminary Player to Watch for the upcoming 2016 NHL draft. On the list there are eleven players listed from the NAHL. One of those players is Johnstown Tomahawks' defenseman Zakery Galamobs. Galamobs has played in four games for Johnstown so far, scoring one goal and has a  +4 on ice rating.

Last season Galamobs spent some time with the Janesville Jets where he had one goal and was a minus one in thirteen games.

Ryan Bednard, who played for the Tomahawks last season in net, was also a player to be featured in the Players to Watch list for the 2015 NHL draft and later was selected by the Florida Panthers in this offseason's NHL entry draft.

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