The Johnstown Tomahawks are set to begin their third season in the North American Hockey League as they head down the road to Connellsville to take on the Keystone Ice Miners.
It is the first meeting between the Tomahawks and the Ice Miners, but plenty of history exists between the two franchises. Keystone relocated to Pennsylvania over the offseason after playing as the Port Huron Fighting Falcons — the same team that forced the Tomahawks out of the playoffs last season.
The reigning North Division champs return 11 veterans last year's Fighting Falcons team, ensuring that the existing rivalry between the two teams will only be strengthened by the Ice Miners' relocation.
The Tomahawks, too, will have a mix of returning veterans and newcomers.
On defense, newly named captain Brady Bender returns alongside Shane Cuckovich, Dakoda Menslage, Alex Jaeckle, and Logan Hudson — all solid contributors last summer. They are joined on the blueline by Jake Houston (who played four games with Johnstown last year as a call-up), Steve Quagliata, and Ivan Osko.
The forwards return Tanner Barnes, Josh Bowes, Garrison Sanipass, Tommy Hall and Trevor Recktenwald among a diverse set of newcomers. Cam Bleck holds several years of NAHL experience, as does Collin Montgomery. Rookies Zac Robbins and Peter Bates played alongside each other for Team Illinois and are already showing strong chemistry together for Johnstown, while Ryan Bochert, Brendan Logan, Andrew Romano, Zander Sorenson,and Zach Zech will also contribute.
The forwards also include a strong contigent of Western Pennsylvania, who join Recktenwald and Houston as local products playing for the Tomahawks this season. The group includes first-round pick Dalton Hunter, of Greensburg, Luke Lynch of Pittsburgh, and Connor Eckenrod of Ebensburg.
In goal will be returning netminder Brett Young alongside rookies Jake Gwillim and Ryan Bednard, who was recently named to the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects team.
The season opens Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Ice Mine Arena in Connellsville, Pa. While Johnstown fans are expected to be well represented at the opponents' rink, fans who cannot make the drive are encouraged to watch the action live online at www.FastHockey.com.
Those logging in for the game will want to select the feed from the Tomahawks broadcast team of Rick Hull and MIke Gosnell to catch all the action as the Tommahawks begin their new rivalry with the Ice Miners.