November 6, 2017
Recap: Johnstown vs New Jersey Weekend Series; Ref Rant
Another weekend of hockey is in the books and the Tomahawks found themselves only winning one of three games. If you just look at the stat sheet you might be thinking, "same old, same old," but for those at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial they saw something different. They saw a team battling. Improving. One bounce (and a fair ref) away from having that 1-2 record turning the other way.
The weekend didn't start off great as the Tomahawks dropped Friday's game by the score of 6-3. Out of the nine goals that were scored in the game, six of them were on special teams. One was an empty netter.
The Tomahawks didn't look terrible and actually out-shot the Titans in the game, 39-34. It was just one of those games that things didn't go right for the Tomahawks, and a couple breakdowns cost them the game.
On Saturday, the Tomahawks and Titans had a physical affair. In total, the teams would combine for a total of 121 penalty minutes.
The turning point of the game came in the second period with the Tomahawks down a goal, 2-1. Chris Trouba carried the puck along the boards on the penalty box wall when he was checked from behind by Titans' forward, Oliver MacDonald. The hit, which the referee called correctly in this instance, lead to the Tomahawks having a five-minute power play.
Before the players came out onto the ice to start the power play the Tomahawks bench was making sure that everyone wearing a white sweater knew that this was the moment they had to get back at the Titans, not with their fists (this time) but on the scoreboard.
Players yelling to each other things like "this is our shot" and "time to make them pay, boys," were just a few things you could hear the players verbalizing from over the glass.
It wasn't just all talk. The Tomahawks followed through and in the span of five minutes scored three goals to not only give them the lead, but eventually the win.
First, it was Solensky to hammer a puck past goaltender Matt Ladd to tie the game at two.
Then, little more than a minute later, Andy Nedejkovic would give the Tomahawks the lead.
Less than a minutes later, Kile would bury a puck in the back of the net to put the Tomahawks up by two, a very important marker as New Jersey would pull within one early in the third period.
After New Jersey's Spencer Stanley scored his first goal of the season bringing the score to 4-3 Johnstown, the Tomahawks found themselves having to kill several penalties throughout the remainder of the game.
At one point the Tomahawks even had to deal with a 5-on-3 penalty kill.
Having the leagues worst penalty kill, only killing 66% percent of their odd-man advantages, the Tomahawks did anything and everything they could to maintain the lead.
Players like, Andrew Andary laid his body on the line blocking several shots from reaching the net.
When a puck did manage to find it's way though the heavy traffic in front, Britt League was equal to the task.
Overall, League faced 30 New Jersey shots, 15 of which came in the third period, but other than the early goal, League didn't crack and in standing tall picked up his first win of the season.
This was Johnstown's fourth win overall this season and marked head coach Mike Letizia's 100th win behind the Tomahawks bench.
On Sunday, the same two teams went to battle once again. It was a tight checking, low scoring affair. At times, tempers were starting to boil and usually it was New Jersey's Tate Singleton, scorer and agitator that was in the middle of the chipping.
While both teams only had ten minutes of penalties each, it didn't mean that there wasn't penalty worthy things happening on the ice. But, as it seems to always be the case, the referees turned a blind eye to it, especially when it would have resulted in a Johnstown man advantage.
I'm not one to jump on a ref after every call that's made against the hometown team. In most cases, whether fans like it or not, when a penalty is called it's usually granted. Though there were a few calls this weekend that left not only myself scratching my head, but many of the fans in attendace.
One example came on Saturday night after a New Jersey player was caught with a high stick. The Tomahawks player was whistled for the high-sticking minor and sent to the box for two minutes.
Minutes after calling the penalty, but before the puck was dropped, the ref was refereed to the Titans bench to inspect the high-sticked player's neck. Seeing a scratch on the player, which was only pointed out to him after the player had gone to the bench and had the trainer start working on him, did the ref change his mind and turned his minor into a double minor.
Another example came on Sunday when Jack Leavy made a save and then covered up the puck only to be ran into. Of course, when something like this happens, there's going to be some rough stuff that happens to that player. Somehow, instead of Johnstown getting a four minute power play, they only go two, when Johnstown was given a minor for roughing.
Then, the turning point of Sunday's game.
New Jersey's Gavin Gulash wrapped the puck around Johnstown's net and appeared to score as indicated by his celebrating. The light never went on because for whatever reason, there wasn't a goal judge at that net for this game.
The ref, who by the time got to the net for a good view of the puck, the puck was already down the ice.
Talking with his fellow linesmen and neither of them seeming to know what happened, the ref awarded the goal which put New Jersey up 2-1, which would become the final score.
A team that's having a tough season as it is doesn't need it to be even that much tougher when the guys in charge of keeping things fair seem to "have it out" for the Hawks.
You'd think, the team that leads the division in attendance by thousands, which can only help the league's bottom line (I mean there's NO way teams like Philadelphia, New Jersey, Northeast, WB/Scranton are making any money), and has a strong ownership group which includes Rick Bouchard listed as a 2017-18 NAHL Executive Committee member, get the right call, let's say - right every once in a while at least?
But what is done is done and the Tomahawks will have to refocus as the Knights come into Johnstown this upcoming weekend for two games.
The Knights are currently one point behind Northeast (who they swept last weekend) and overall are the second best team in the NAHL. The Tomahawks will have their hands full, but last time they played the Knights the Tomahawks were able to pick up a point in overtime.
After starting the season 2-12-0 the Tomahawks are 2-4-1 in their last 7 games. Things do look to be on the upswing for the Hawks. Let's hope they can continue that trend this weekend.