Over the weekend the Tomahawks finally got to play a couple home games. Though it was a change of pace from all the away games to begin the season, the final results were still the same. After dropping Saturday's game, 4-0, and then losing again on Sunday, 5-1, the Tomahawks are now on a 10-game losing streak.
It was hard to judge how the team played when they were on the road, as watching online vs in-person are two totally different experiences. After finally getting to see this year's team in person, it's safe to say one thing; they're pretty bad.
You can jump to quick statements in defending the reasons why the Tomahawks currently have a record of 2-12-0.
"This is the youngest team we've ever had."
"They're still getting use to playing with each other."
"Having no preseason games hurt them in being prepared for the season."
The these statments could go on and on.
The truth is, while the things stated above might lead to losses in the first couple weeks of the season, it's not what's causing the team to continue to lose.
So what is?
Well, it'll be quicker to layout what isn't first.
If there's three guys you can feel bad for on the Tomahawks roster it's the three guys standing in the blue crease for the Hawks.
While, Purpura, Faulkner, and League all have save percentages below .900, they’ve kept the Tomahawks in games for as long as possible, and have given the team chances to stay in games and make things happen.
On Saturday, Purpura stood on his head at times, keeping the Tomahawks within striking distance of Philadelphia, but no matter how well Purpura played the Tomahawks didn’t score, and you can’t win if you don’t score.
On Sunday, League only faced 14 shots. He still allowed five goals. One was a breakaway (after the no penalty call knee-on-knee hit that lead to the breakaway). One was a freak “own goal”. Another was a redirection in front, a goalie's nightmare.
Take those out of the equation, and the Tomahawks only lose, 2-1. If they’d capitalize on some of their chances, this could have gone in the win column for the Hawks.
I’d say for the most part, the effort from the Tomahawks is there. Even when the score was 5-1 in the late stages of Sunday’s game, the players on the Hawks’ bench were still chattering with each other, staying positive, and pushing to try and end the game on a positive note.
Throughout both games, players were blocking shots, dishing out hits, fighting, even when they were behind. I’d say the effort is there.
That’s one of the good things about this level of hockey.
If Johnstown still had the Chiefs in town and they held a record of 2-12-0 effort would be something you’d definitively have to question. How many times did we, as fans, see the Chiefs not show up for games? How many players did we see seem to be going through the motions?
With the Tomahawks’, you don’t see that and there’s two main reason’s why.
1. They’re playing the game because they love it, not because they’re getting paid to. 2. Every game, every shift matters when you’re looking for a college scholarship.
Even when the game is out of reach you can expect to see players giving it everything they’ve got. Scouts want to see what a player is made of when the deck is stacked against them. They want to see that never quit attitude. Calling it in could mean the difference between a D1 and D3 college commit, or even getting one at all.
There are times when it appears like the effort isn’t there, but I think there might be another reason for this, and that takes us to the reasons I believe the team keeps losing.
It’s been mentioned on Facebook, Twitter, and even the message boards that it some times looks like the players on the Hawks aren’t sure what they’re suppose to be doing.
I think that’s most obvious when they’re in their defensive zone.
There’s no speed when retrieving pucks down low. When the D-men get the puck they either softly give the puck away or just flip it sky-high down the ice.
Then there’s all the times that the D-men have the puck behind the net and start to glide out, trying to move the puck forward, and you hear screams from the coaching staff yelling for the player to “skate!”.
How many times do you hear the opposing team’s coaches have to tell their players to move the puck up the ice or where to go? I could count on one hand, or less.
This tells me that there’s either not a true system in place, or the players aren’t prepared enough to know what exactly they should be doing. This is fixable, and making sure it gets corrected should be something the Tomahawks have done before the next game.
After giving up the fourth goal on Saturday night, Purpura, a calm player in net, showed some emotion as he took the puck out of his net. The goal stemmed from another terrible, in close, turn over.
How many times this weekend did we see the Tomahawks turn the puck over at the circles from bad passing?
Turning the puck over at the hash marks, against teams like the Rebels will always come back to hurt you and it did.
From the lowest Mite levels to the NHL, you should never throw the puck into the middle of the ice of your own defensive zone, unless you want to get burned. This is something the Tomahawks did time and time again. It’s something that they’ve done all season so far.
If the Tomahawks can correct this and begin to move their feet and use their speed on the back-end to move the puck up the ice, you’ll see the goals against start to go down.
Nowhere to skate the puck to? Hard clears off the glass or along the wall is another route to go. But these middle of the ice plays are killing the Tomahawks.
The Tomahawks have only scored 21 goals in 14 games this season. One of those games the Tomahawks scored 5 goals (Showcase game vs Aberdeen).
Last year’s team was the best built team I think the Tomahawks have ever put together and obviously the record showed that.
Up front, the team had a perfect mix of skill and grit.
Solensky, Ott, Bruce, Hunter, Rowan, Buncis, are just a few of the highly skilled forwards the Hawks had.
Mixed with them were players like, Biasillo, Kile, Hale, Horn, Norman, that had grit. Players that complimented the more skilled players. They had a job to do. Hit, grind, retrieve pucks, kill penalties, and so on. They did it perfectly.
On defense you had a great balance of offensive defensemen with defensive defensemen.
Pileqicz, Bokun, Iehle, Quetell, helped push the offensive game.
Hirka, Trouba, Young, helped shut things down.
This year’s team however feels like there’s too many of the same types of players.
There’s not many true offensive threats, at least at this point in the season. David and Ben, Schmidling, Solensky are the ones that come to mind.
Furey, White, Singley, Groton, Hale, Kile, Kacirek are all guys that seem to be filling the grinder type of rules (just to name a few).
Kile and Hale are great grinding types of players who compliment higher skilled players. Kile is currently leading the team in points (5, all goals). Hale 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists). See the issue?
On defense there’s too many defensive defensemen and not enough offensive types of guys.
With that said, Trouba, Carrick, Davidson, Del Ponte, Quetell all have great looking shots.
With such few scoring threats (at this point in the season) upfront, Tomahawks should tweak their system to generate more offense from their defensive unit.
On Sunday, the only goal came after Carrick fired a shot from the blue line that Singley was able to redirect.
Though the Tomahawks didn’t score a power play goal in either game this past weekend, the power play generated several great chances from generating shots from the blue line and then battling in front for rebounds.
Tomahawks should encourage their d-men to fire the canons they have and let their more, grinding type of forwards, to do what they do best, and get those dirty goals.
I think this is something that can help the Tomahawks kick start their offense. Once some of these forwards start scoring Patric Hornqvist type of goals, it’ll boost their confidence and in turn should kick-start the scoring.
The Tomahawks shouldn’t try playing like they did last season, because that isn’t the team we have this year. This team should focus on the grinding, dirty, hardworking style of play.
Johnstown needs to stop giving up the puck in the middle of the ice, especially in their defensive zone.
If they can do this and continue to get pretty good goaltending, Johnstown has a great chance of ending this losing streak and start climbing up the East Division standings.