The Johnstown Tomahawks did something this weekend they haven't been able to do all season long thus far; win a series, picking up three points out of four.
Johnstown has now gotten at least one point from the Knights the last three times they've played against them.
Next weekend the Tomahawks head to the road where they'll face the WB/Scranton Knights once again for a two-game set.
After a terrible start to the season, Johnstown has begun to claw themselves back to a respectable record and hopefully a playoff spot. The Tomahawks are 3-5-1-1 in their last 10 games after starting the season 2-12-0.
Currently the Hawks sit in last place in the East Division standings with 12 points. Ahead of them, New Jersey Titans with 22 points, Philadelphia Rebels with 26 points, Northeast Generals with 28 points, and WB/Scranton with 29 points.
WB/Scranton currently is the best team in the league, though this weekend they didn't really look like it through this writer's eyes.
Are the Knights not as good as their record indicates or are the Tomahawks starting to get their game together? I think it's a little of both.
On Friday night, it was a close checking, low scoring game, with the biggest play coming with only .2 seconds left in regulation. With the Tomahwks down by a goal, and the goalie pulled, this happened...
Just last season if this happened at the War Memorial this goal probably wouldn't have counted as the old scoreboard didn't keep track of the milliseconds on the clock. Luckily, the War Memorial's new scoreboard, does include milliseconds, which clearly showed that the Tomahawks scored the game-tying goal just with time left on the clock.
While both teams exchanged chances in overtime, neither team could end things and it took a shootout to find a winner. The best-of-three round shootout took an addition four shooters (seven rounds total) before the Knights won the game on a goal from Gabe Temple.
It would have been the perfect ending for Johnstown to find a way to win this game, but having a team desperate to pick up points, at least that's what the Hawks were able to do on Friday night.
On Saturday, it was another tight-checking, defensive game, with both team's goalie's making big saves at key times. Britt League faced 28 shots and turned every single one of them away as he picked up his first shutout of the season, and first as a Tomahawk.
This was also the Tomahawks first shutout of the year as a team.
Britt League was also in net on Friday night where he faced 38 shots and made 36 saves. With such a great performance over the weekend, the NAHL named Leauge the East Division Player of the Week.
Fellow Tomahawks' player, Christian Gorscak was named 2nd star.
Something that really wasn't a factor this past weekend was the refereeing. All in all, I thought that the official did a good job. Anthony Opanowski, the ref who did both games this weekend, reminded me of an old school ECHL ref like, Joe Ernst.
Mr. Opanowski let both teams play and hardly called anything. Now, you might not like that, and sure there were times when a guy got tripped, or hooked, or board (both ways) and it wasn't called when it could have been, but he was consistent and make those calls for either team.
There wasn't that much rough stuff that happened between the two teams this weekend either. As fans, we're so use to seeing Philadelphia, New Jersey, Northeast games get, at points, out of control, but I can't really remember a game where that sort of thing happens against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The Knights head coach, Tom Kowal, is also one of the only coaches that I've seen come into Johnstown and not consistently scream at his players and the refs.
There was some chirping in between the benches this weekend, but that kind of stuff always happens when you're playing such an emotional game like hockey. It definitely wasn't like the prior weekend vs the Titans. The yelling, trash-talking, and goating was never ending on both sides, most of which can't be repeating on a blog like this one without heavy censoring.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that even though those in your face, hard hitting, fight filled, rivalry games are exciting to watch and be a part of, it's also nice to just watch two teams play hockey and rely on skill and hard work to win the game.
Out of all the teams Johnstown plays, the Knights are probably the one team I don't hate. Philadelpha and the rest of the division, well, that could be another entire blog post of it's own.
The team really is starting to play better and it's showing in the standings. The Tomahawks have a ton of work to still do and it's going to take 100% effort each and every night from now until the end of the season to work out of the hole they put themselves in at the start of the year, but it's doable.
The Hawks have two games this weekend vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. They'll be off the following week for Thanksgiving Holiday. They'll then host the Titans for three more games, and then the Knights again for two. That's fourteen points up for grabs.
The Tomahwks have a real good chance of putting themselves right there with the rest of the division come the middle of December.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3 Johnstown 2 F/SO (Boxscore) (press release)
Johnstown 3 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 0 F (Boxscore) (press release)
P.S. The Tomahawks had a very big crowd on Saturday night. It was reported as 3,038 fans. Overall, the NAHL lists Johnstown as 5th in league attendance averaging 2,116 fans at home. This is not exactly correct as they're factoring in the two home games at the showcase towards the attendance. If you take out those two games the Tomahawks are actually averaging 2,086 fans at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria War Memorial.