Planet Ice Gameday Preview: September 14, 2013

Game Preview

Port Huron Fighting Falcons vs. Johnstown Tomahawks

September 14, 2013

7:30 p.m.

Cambria County War Memorial Arena, Johnstown PA

By Ed Sheets

 

THE SERIES

Tonight the Tomahawks open their second season in the North American Hockey League as they welcome the Port Huron Fighting Falcons to the War Memorial Arena for the first of 12 meetings this season. The first six meetings will take place at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena, before the season series shifts to the McMorran Arena for the final six.

Last season the Tomahawks and Fighting Falcons opened with a pair of games in Port Huron, MI. The Fighting Falcons swept the opening weekend series, and went on to win six of the eight meetings. The teams met in the North Division Play-In round, with Port Huron hosting the first two games. Port Huron won game one 3-0, thanks to three third period goals. Johnstown evened the series the following night, thanks to goals from former Tomahawks Jeff Bergh and Cobi Smith-Mass, setting up the decisive game three in Johnstown. In the series finale, Johnstown held a 3-2 lead before Port Huron’s Brett D’Andrea tied the game with 35 seconds remaining in regulation. The Fighting Falcons won the series on Ian Miller’s goal 3:28 into the overtime period.

Following this weekend’s games the two teams will meet again on November 2 and 3.

THE TOMAHAWKS

After a successful 2012-2013 campaign, Johnstown looks to build on last year’s solid foundation. The Tomahawks return eight players from last season, including Jordan Watt, Cody Gylling and Brandon Reinholz, who were among the team leaders in several offensive categories. Jesse Kessler returns after appearing in 61 of 63 games last season along with Zach Wallace who led the team with a +/- of 11. The team will have to replace leading scorers Mitch Kontny and Casey Nelson, along with several other key pieces from last year’s team.

Goaltender Alex Okicki and defenseman Trevor Heuser were added during the offseason and provide   additional NAHL experience, while players like Pittsburgh native Trevor Recktenwald and Connor Gilmartin look to step up and take advantage of opportunities in their first seasons in the league.

The Tomahawks embark on their first road trip of the season when they travel to the 2013 NAHL Showcase next weekend before visiting Soo for a weekend series Sept. 27-29. They return to the War Memorial Arena to take on the Springfield Jr. Blues Oct. 5 and 6.

Player to Watch

· Jordan Watt: The Orange, CA native was in the top five in goals (20), assists (17), points (37), and power-play goals (8) for the team last season. In his two seasons in the NAHL, Watt has 59 points (30-29-59) in 101 games.

THE FIGHTING FALCONS

The Fighting Falcons enter their fourth season in the NAHL, and they will look to improve on their 34-28-4 record from last season. Port Huron will have to replace leading scorers Rick DeRosa, Easton Powers, Brett D’Andrea, and Ian Miller who combined for 53 goals and 86 assists last season. Nick Horne, who scored 28 points (11-17-28) in 57 games last season, returns along with 20 point scorers Mitch Maloney and Vito Aluia.

Goaltenders Max Milosek and Alex Blankenburg both return this season after splitting the goaltender duties for the Fighting Falcons last season. Milosek has won 41 games in the last two seasons for the Fighting Falcons, while Blankenburg was 10-8-4 in 24 appearances in his first season.

The Fighting Falcons travel to the 2013 NAHL Showcase before taking on the Michigan Warriors in a home-and-home series the following weekend.

Player to Watch

· Max Milosek: The native of Lapeer, MI was solid in net last season going 22-13-3 in 39 appearances. He ended the season winning 11 of his last 16 games.

KEY STATS

· Port Huron ended the regular season with an eight game winning streak.

·  The Tomahawks were effective on special teams last season, with 56 power-play goals (2nd in league), a percentage of 18.36 on the power-play (3rd in league) and had the most power-play chances (305) in the league.

· Johnstown was 5th in the league in attendance with an average attendance of 2,527 fans per game. Nearly 1.1 million fans attended NAHL games last season.