Michigan Warriors vs. Johnstown Tomahawks
When: Friday, Jan. 18 & Saturday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: War Memorial Arena, Johnstown, PA
By Suzanne Grove
On Friday and Saturday, the Tomahawks will host the Warriors for the third and fourth times this season in what will be the two teams’ final meetings of the NAHL 2012-2013 regular season. Entering the weekend, the Tomahawks have a record of 2-2-2 vs. the Warriors.
The North Division rivals first met in Johnstown for the Tomahawks inaugural season opener on September 29 and 30. Johnstown exited the weekend with three points after losing its first game in a shootout, 3-2, and winning its second, 4-2. The teams most recently met in Flint, MI on January 4, 5, and 6 for a three-game battle from which Johnstown departed with one point after a 2-1 shootout loss on January 5. Prior to the road trip, the Tomahawks only visited the Warriors one other time, earning a 4-2 victory on October 14.
Friday will mark Johnstown’s 40th game and 20th home game. Michigan will play its 19th road game and 39th overall game.
THE TOMAHAWKS (18-12-9)
The Tomahawks currently sit in fourth place in the North Division with 45 points coming into the two-game series, 10 points behind the division-leading Sault Ste. Marie Eagles. Johnstown is 14 points ahead of last-place Michigan (31).
The Tomahawks are 10-5-4 at home after earning three points in three games last weekend at the War Memorial in two games against Port Huron and one game against Sault Ste. Marie. The Tomahawks are 9-4-3 at the War Memorial this season, including a 5-3-2 record in their last ten home games. They have earned five points in their last eight games, which have included three overtime losses. Johnstown has nine overtime losses this season – more than any other team in the league. They have also had a total of 12 games decided beyond regulation.
On January 11, Johnstown lost the lead twice and Port Huron ultimately pushed the game to a shootout, defeating the Tomahawks, 3-2. The goaltending was solid, with Port Huron’s Alex Blankenburg stopping 36 of 38 in regulation and all four shooters in the shootout for the win. Colin Brennan stopped 25 of 27 in regulation and two of four in the shootout for the loss. Port Huron’s penalty kill was effective, stopping all five of Johnstown’s chances in the game. Casey Nelson and Zach Wallace provided the Tomahawks goals, while Andrew McDonald, Cody Gylling, and Connor Wright notched the assists.
The following night the Tomahawks once again failed to earn two points at home, losing, 4-2, in front of a sell-out crowd. Johnstown was down 3-0 at the start of the second period when Jaycob McCombs infused life into his team with a highlight-reel goal at 4:52. McCombs received a pass from defenseman Jesse Kessler inside the blueline, beat a defenseman, and flew down the ice to score on the breakaway. But McCombs’ fifth goal of the season and Kessler’s goal 3:23 into the third period to make it 3-2 was not enough. Blankenburg stopped 29 of 31 shots to pick up the win, his third straight against Johnstown. Brennan stopped 11 of 14 shots in the first period to take the loss. Chris Truehl replaced him for the start of the second and stopped all 17 shots he faced.
The following afternoon, McDonald scored two goals and Wallace added three assists as the Tomahawks defeated the division-leading Soo Eagles, 6-2. The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Tomahawks and was the second straight loss for Soo. Prior to the two losses, Soo had won nine straight. Chris Truehl was solid in net stopping 33 of 35 shots, while snapping his two-game losing streak. Tyler Marble, who came into the game in the top five for GAA, shutouts, and save percentage stopped 17 of 22 before being pulled after Reinholz’s goal in the second period to make it 5-1. The loss also snapped Marble’s seven-game winning streak. Zach Nagelvoort stopped 11 of 12 shots in relief of Marble.The Tomahawks were able to keep Eric Rivard and Jared VanWormer, who rank third and fourth in the league in points, relatively silent. Rivard stayed off the board and VanWormer had a single assist.
Following their series with the Warriors, the Tomahawks will go on the road for two games in Sault Ste. Marie, MI against the Eagles.
THE MICHIGAN WARRIORS(13-20-5)
Michigan enters Friday night’s game in last place in the North Division with 31 points. Last weekend, the Warriors were swept by Kalamazoo in a home-at-home series. Those two loses snapped Michigan’s five-game win streak that lasted from December 31 to January 6. The Warriors aren’t particularly effective on the road, going 6-11-1 this season.
Michigan has struggled so far this season. The team is among the bottom five in goals scored and last in the division with 90. The Warriors also have one of the worst power plays in the league. They are two spots out of last place, having gone 13-for-123 (10.6 percent). Their abilities on the penalty kill are better, only allowing 17 goals on 147 chances (88.4 percent) for fourth in the league. In the division, Johnstown and Michigan are on two ends of the spectrum when it comes to penalty minutes: Johnstown has the most in the North with 863 while Michigan has the least with 528.
After the two games in Johnstown, the Warriors will return home for one game on January 25 against Port Huron.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Andrew McDonald:The New Brighton, MN native has been a crucial component of the Tomahawks since the team acquired him on October 26. He has had 5 points in his last five games (3-2-5) and ranks second in points on the team with 25, two points behind Gylling.
Martin Gruse:Gruse had three points (1-2-3) in his team’s three-game sweep of Johnstown. He also leads his team in several categories: he has the most points (25), assists (16), shots (127) and penalty minutes (65).
- Johnstown’s PP has gone 38-for-206 (18.5 percent, fifth in the league and first in the division) on the season while the PK has gone 151-for-178 (84.8 percent).
- The Tomahawks have the second-most power-play goals in the NAHL with 38 and the most power-play opportunities with 206.
- The Tomahawks’ Casey Nelson is fourth among NAHL defenseman in points (24) and has the most shots (135).
- Tomahawks are fifth in the league with an average attendance of 2,343.
NOTES: On Thursday, Jan. 17, General Manager Rick Boyd announced the team tendered two players: Shane Cuckovich and Trevor Recktenwald. Cuckovich, a defenseman from Rochester Hills, MI comes from HoneyBaked Midget Major hockey club and Recktenwald, a forward from Venetia, PA currently plays for the Pittsburgh Viper Stars 18U team.