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Tomahawks Extend Letizia

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Tomahawks of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are proud to announce that head coach Mike Letizia will remain with the team as head coach for two more years.

 

Letizia recently signed a two-year contract extension to remain with the Tomahawks through the 2018-19 season.

 

 “I am very grateful for the opportunity that the ownership has given me since I joined the organization in our inaugural season,” Letizia said. “Being able to continue to do what I love to do for this great organization is something that I take a lot of pride in, and have so much passion about it.”

 

The 31-year-old Chicago native began his career with the Tomahawks as the assistant coach during the team’s first two seasons before becoming the head coach. Previously, Letizia coached multiple local hockey teams as an active and valuable member of the Johnstown community.

 

Staying active in the community is important to Letizia, who currently lives in nearby Somerset with his wife and daughter.

 

“My family has become a part of the Tomahawks family and that probably means the most to me,” Letizia said. “My wife Alana and my daughter Myla are mine and the team's biggest fans and never miss a game, so being able to continue to share this with them is something that's very important.”

 

The Tomahawks have also had great success under Coach Letizia.

 

In his first season as head coach, six Tomahawks players committed to NCAA Division I programs, seven players went to play at NCAA Division III schools, and the team saw their first NHL draft pick in goaltender Ryan Bednard.

 

Last season, the Tomahawks won 31 regular season games and made it to the second round of the Robertson Cup playoffs for the first time since relocating to Johnstown. Additionally, 17 players from the 2015-16 team moved on to the collegiate level, which established a team record.

 

"The Tomahawks are excited to have Mike remain the head coach for two more season," team president Richard Bouchard said. "He is a valuable asset to the organization and highly devoted to the team and the Johnstown community. We look forward to seeing Mike continue to lead the Tomahawks to success."

 

As a player, Letizia spent four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League as a defenseman with the Plymouth Whalers, serving as an alternate captain for two seasons.

 

Letizia then signed his first professional contract with the Rockford IceHogs of the former United Hockey League. As an IceHog, Letizia was nominated for Rookie of the Year and won a Colonial Cup Championship in 2007.

“I truly love coming to the rink every day and being able to work with our players to help them achieve their goals. It is very gratifying to see our players move on to college, pro hockey and beyond,” Letizia said. “But maybe even more than that is the calls and texts from past players on holidays, during the season, or just to say hi and see how my family is doing. That's pretty special and really makes you feel the impact you can have on these players and that is what makes doing this so meaningful.”

 

Tomahawks Are Piecing Together 2016-17 Team

Summer is typically not thought of as hockey season.

 

However, for various junior hockey teams across North America, summer represents a chance build your roster for the next season. And in the North American Hockey League, all 24 teams take this opportunity to find players they think fit the mold of their vision.

 

The Johnstown Tomahawks are no exception. July 14-17, the team held its Main Camp at Planet Ice. The camp was held after three open try-out camps in Pittsburgh, Greater Detroit and Minnesota.

 

This invitation-only camp saw the best and brightest prospects from the previous camps flock to the city of Johnstown to compete for a spot on the 2016-17 Tomahawks roster.

 

With roster turnover from last season, Tomahawks head coach Mike Letizia and assistant coach Nick Shackford were hard at work, scouting players, watching film and working the phones to ensure the best competition possible during the four-day camp.

 

Letizia commented that is was the “dedication” from Shackford and the scouting staff that made Main Camp competitive and successful in finding the players they were searching for during the offseason.

 

“With the large turnover we had, we were extremely open minded to all the players coming into camp,” Letizia said. “I feel that you need to combine players that have skill, hockey sense, toughness and grit, strong character, and a team first mentality.”

 

Development is the next step in the process according to Letizia.

 

“From there as coaches we work on their development both individually and as a team to help us create overall success,” he said. “We had a lot of players that possessed these qualities at our camp which is a product of dedicated scouting by coach Shackford and the other members of our scouting staff.”

 

The players that reported to Johnstown did not disappoint Letizia. The competition was at a high level throughout the four-day grind.

 

“We really saw the guys doing all they could to make this team,” Letizia said. “Obviously we couldn't take everyone, but there were so many difficult decisions for us where we kept going back and forth. This was a big reason why we added the second all-star game. We just didn't feel right having just one when we had so many tough choices and we wanted to give it another look and as tough as it still was, it definitely helped us.”

“Additionally, there were some great young prospects at this camp that maybe were not quite ready yet but are guys that we are going to really follow for the future.”

 

The large turnout for camp made a clear statement. Johnstown and the Tomahawks have become a premier destination for prospects.

 

“We feel that we are a great destination for prospects,” Letizia said. “Playing in Johnstown is a very special thing for junior hockey players. The tradition of the arena, the town, and the people of the community is what I believe sets us apart. We are striving to be the best possible team we can be on the ice and I look forward to continuing to work to do that.”

 

Much like a puzzle, a hockey is assembled piece by piece and the Tomahawks are almost done. Next up for the team is training camp in late August.

Red & Blue Game Gives Fans First Glimpse at 2016-17 Roster

JOHNSTOWN – The Johnstown Tomahawks hosted their fifth annual Red & Blue game Sunday morning.

 

Fans packed Planet Ice to get a preview of the 2016-17 Tomahawks roster. This time, fans enojyed two games during the morning as well as a three-on-three showcase.

 

In game one, the Red team struck early and often, beginning with a goal from Tomahawks draft pick Joseph Kile. His goal was assisted by free agent invites Richard Boysen and Zack Gielarowski.

 

Three minutes later, free agent Chad Watt buried a loose puck to make it 2-0 Red team.

 

Lukas Samuelsson, son of former NHL defenseman Kjell Samuelsson, added to the Red lead with his goal. Kile added the lone assist.

 

Red ended the period with another goal, this time from free agent Patrick O'Neal. The goal was assisted by Kile and Tiernan Seningen.

 

In the final period of play, the Blue team solved the zero on the scoreboard with a goal from Gianni Vitali but the Red team quickly set the final at 5-1 with a goal from draft pick Donovan Ott.

 

Game two saw a new roster of players and back and forth start to the game.

 

The Blue team finally cracked a scoreless tie when defenseman Garrett Johnston fired a shot from the point that beat Red goaltender Alex Camarre. The goal was assisted by Jack Sampson and Riley Doyon.

 

Isaac Ceh picked up Blue's second goal and Wyatt Radakovitz scored seconds later to put their squad up 3-0.

 

Blue finished off the period with a breakaway goal from Jack Sampson. Riley Hestwood and Ian Kwant registered the assists.

 

In the last period, the Red team would mount a comeback.

 

Ryan Kheir cut the deficit to 4-1 with a goal six minutes into the frame.

 

The Blue team answered with a Riley Doyon goal, however, the Red team quickly responded when Alex Singley netted a goal.

 

Dustin Bolinger of the Red team cut the Blue lead 5-3 with a power-play goal. Then, Eamon Hilliard made it a one-goal game with 2 minutes left to play.

 

The Red team tied the game with less than a minute to go when Todd Trottier fired a wrist shot into the back of the net. Ricky Kwapich and Singley assisted on the goal.

 

In the shootout round, the Blue team would capture a thrilling victory and capped off a morning hockey with a 6-5 win.

 

The focus now turns to training camp as the Tomahawks coaches will have to make roster cuts.

Returning Veterans Embracing Leadership Role : Main Camp Update

After a record-breaking 2015-16 season, the Johnstown Tomahawks find themselves with roster spots to fill. Seventeen players from last season's squad advanced to collegiate hockey, a team milestone.

 

However, the Tomahawks have a solid group of returning veterans that will help transition the team to new heights in the 2016-17 NAHL season.

 

Returning forward Tommy Horn has trained hard during the off-season to be prepared for an intense Main Camp at Planet Ice.

 

I've made sure to work hard during the summer to prepare my body for camp,” Horn said. “Nothing is guaranteed so I have to make sure I am performing at my very best every shift. Main Camp is looking great so far and there are a lot of guys competing hard out there.”

 

Horn, a Pittsburgh native, enjoyed a career season in the NAHL netting 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 48 game splayed during his first campaign with the Tomahawks. He was a veteran presence on a veteran-laden Hawks team during 2015-16.

 

The competition is fierce as there are spots to fill and Horn commented that he is getting into his groove.

 

I'm getting back into it,” Horn said. “I've kept my feet moving and I take it one shift at a time.”

 

Another returning veteran is defenseman Adam Pilewicz, who earned a solid rookie season with Johnstown.

 

Another Pittsburgh native, Pilewicz stabilized the Tomahawks blue line and chipped in five goals and 11 assists. The defender said that he was glad to be back in Johnstown.

 

It's great to be back in town and see all of the fans and my teammates,” Pilewicz said. “It's a different feel this year being a returner on the team. I want to help lead the rest of the guys through camp because for some this is their first camp.”

 

Additionally, Pilewicz hopes to pick up where he left off last season.

 

I feel very comfortable out there, especially after a hard practice on Thursday,” Pilewicz said. “I've been working out a ton during the summer and training hard to get ready for the season.”

 

Tomahawks veterans have had a noticeable affect during camp so far. Their vocal and on-ice leadership have made Main Camp a fun and exciting one so far.

 

Stay tuned for more coverage of day two of camp later this evening.

 

Tomahawks, War Memorial Sign Lease Extension

JOHNSTOWN – The Johnstown Tomahawks are here to stay.

 

The Tomahawks have recently reached an agreement with the Cambria County War Memorial Arena that would keep the Tomahawks in Johnstown through the 2021-22 hockey season. The agreement includes a three-year contract between the team and arena, with an option for a three-year extension.

 

 “The Tomahawks ownership, the War Memorial’s Board of Authority and SMG have been actively working on a new deal for over a year in order to reach the best possible and mutually beneficial agreement that would secure the financial viability of both parties for years to come,” War Memorial Arena General Manager Steve St. John said. “It’s time to put this contract behind us and put all the hard work into play. Having the team committed to the community for up to six more years is a milestone for all involved, including the Tomahawks fans, the city of Johnstown and the region overall.”

 

“The Tomahawks organization has been committed to Johnstown, the War Memorial Arena and its fans since day one. We are proud to be partners with the Cambria County War Memorial Arena and call Johnstown our home,” Team President Richard Bouchard said. “We are excited and humbled to be a part of this community and continue to play a part of its rich hockey history for many years to come.”

 

The Tomahawks start their fifth anniversary season in the North American Hockey League on Friday, September 9, on the road against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. The home opener at the War Memorial Arena is scheduled for Friday, November 11, versus division rival, the Aston Rebels.

 

The War Memorial is a 3,500-seat multi-purpose arena that originally opened in October 1950 and was recently awarded the honor of Kraft Hockeyville, USA in 2015.

 

The Tomahawks franchise relocated from Alaska to Johnstown in the summer of 2012. The team has sent over 40 players to the collegiate level, professional hockey and the NHL, since arriving in Johnstown.

 

They play 28 home games at the Cambria County War Memorial as part of the NAHL, bringing to the arena dedicated fans from over five different counties in Pennsylvania.

 

Last season, the Tomahawks as the team made it to the second round of the Robertson Cup playoffs for the first time since relocating to Johnstown.

The NAHL is a Tier II junior hockey league comprised of 24 teams in 12 states across North America. League alumni include Ben Bishop, Patrick Kane and Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel.

 

Fans can purchase full and flex season ticket plans for the 2016-17 season by calling the Tomahawks office at (814) 536-4625 or visit the team office at the War Memorial.

Main Camp Opens Thursday; Red & Blue Game set for Sunday

Johnstown Tomahawks fans will get their first look at the 2016-17 Tomahawks roster this Sunday, July 17, as the team hosts its annual Red & Blue Game at Planet Ice in Richland Township.

The exhibition game is set for 10 a.m., and is free and open to the public.

A healthy mix of returning players, tendered prospects, drafted prospects and free agent hopefuls will converge on Johnstown and report to the Tomahawks' Main Camp on Thursday afternoon.

The players invited to Main Camp represent the top talent participating in the Tomahawks three try-out camps held near Pittsburgh, Detroit and Minneapolis in May and June.

The top players from this week’s Main Camp will be selected to play in Sunday’s Red & Blue Game, with the goal of earning an invitation to the Tomahawks’ official training camp, which will begin in late August.

The team enjoyed three strong try-out camps, according to head coach Mike Letizia.

Coming into the off-season we knew we had a relatively big turnover from last season's team with the amount of players moving on to college, so our camp season was very important for us,” Letizia said. “We had three full, strong camps of players hoping to earn the opportunity with our team. Pittsburgh, Michigan, and Minnesota were the locations for our tryout camps and I can say that each camp had players capable of playing for us.”

Letizia commented that the team discovered young talent as well as “solid future prospects” at the three camps.

Overall, I was happy with the turnouts we saw this summer and am very much looking forward to seeing it all come together at main camp,” Letizia said.

A total of 18 players from last season’s Tomahawks team secured NCAA commitments, which is a team record. Of those 18 commitments, seven players from 2015-16 will play Division I college hockey.

The Tomahawks begin the regular season on the road against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights on Friday, Sept. 9. Johnstown’s home opener is Friday, Nov. 11, against the Aston Rebels.

Season ticket packages are now available, with prices beginning under $99 for a 14-game flex ticket package. For information, call 814-536-4625 or visit JohnstownTomahawks.com

NAHL Ties to Stanley Cup Final

By Bryanna McDermott, Tomahawks Freelance Writer

On September 29, 2015, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 at Johnstown’s Cambria County War Memorial, home of the Johnstown Tomahawks, in the preseason Kraft Hockeyville USA game.

 

The Penguins are now one win away from hoisting the Stanley Cup, thanks in part to some former North American Hockey League (NAHL) players.

 

Four NAHL alumni will be on the ice for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, including Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel, Bryan Rust and Ian Cole, along with San Jose’s Matt Nieto.

 

All four players competed as members of the United States National Team Development Program in the NAHL before the team’s departure from the league in 2009.

 

The NAHL is a Tier II Junior league sanctioned by USA Hockey to help young players develop the skills necessary both on-and-off the ice to continue their hockey careers. Kessel, Rust, Cole and Nieto all demonstrate the values and athletic abilities the NAHL strives to produce.

 

The three former NAHL members for the Pens in particular have played a significant role in their Stanley Cup run. Together, Kessel, Rust and Cole accumulated 33 points in 22 playoff games, averaging 1.5 points per game.

 

Phil Kessel is no stranger to scoring. He remains the record holder for most career goals (104) and most career points (180) for the U.S. National Team Development Program in his two seasons with the team, leading Art Ross winner, Patrick Kane.

 

Currently, Kessel has 10 goals and 21 points during his impressive playoff push as a possible Conn Smythe Trophy recipient for the playoff MVP.

 

For Rust and Cole the scoring touch kicked off when they arrived in the NHL.

 

Rust scored two goals against Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, including the game winner, to lead the Pens to the Stanley Cup Final.

 

In September, Cole’s wrist shot found the back of the net to give the Pens a 2-1 lead over the Lightning in Johnstown. Almost nine months later, Cole scored on the rebound from a Kessel shot to put the Pens up 1-0 and lead them to a 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

 

Matt Nieto of the San Jose Sharks has three points throughout the playoffs, including one goal against the Los Angeles Kings.

 

A lot has changed since the Pittsburgh Penguins visited Hockeyville, but the impact of former NAHL players continue to push the Pens to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup title.

 

Hockey is a game of uncertainties, but one thing is assured: no matter the result of Game 5, at least one former NAHL player will hoist the Stanley Cup by the end of this series.

 

 

About the NAHL

 

Celebrating its 41st season in 2016-17, the NAHL, the only USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier II Junior league boasting 24 teams in 12 states from across the United States, prides itself on the social maturity and skill development of student-athletes ages 16-20 with aspirations of advancing to collegiate and/or professional hockey.

 

About the Johnstown Tomahawks

 

Located in historic Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the Tomahawks are proud members of the NAHL and will be celebrating its fifth anniversary season in the NAHL. Since relocating to Johnstown in 2012, the Tomahawks have become a premier destination for the country’s best junior hockey players. In 2015-16, the team placed 17 players in the collegiate ranks, which is a team record.