Tomahawks Snare the Jackalopes with thrilling 6-4 victory

The Johnstown Tomahawks rebounded from a difficult Friday night loss to close their 2014 NAHL Showcase schedule with a thrilling 6-4 win over the Odessa Jackalopes Saturday morning.

The Tomahawks opened the game showing no signs of being rattled following yesterday’s 8-2 loss to Austin, often dictating the play and killing their first penalty of the game, an early slashing call to Zander Sorenson.  At 12:26, however, Odessa’s Kenny Hausinger won a face-off to the right of Tomahawks goaltender Ryan Bednard and quickly directed the puck to linemate Razmuz Wakin-Engback, who fired a hard shot past Bednard for the first score of the game.

Late in the period, an altercation with Odessa’s Andrew McLean landed Tomahawks veterans Trevor Recktenwald and Dakoda Mensalge in the box, giving the Jackalopes their second powerplay of the period.  The Jackalopes were able to slip the puck past Bednard, but the goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference, and the period closed with a 1-0 Odessa lead.

Johnstown evened the game 3:17 into the second when defenseman Logan Hudson intercepted an Odessa dump attempt and quickly found Tanner Barnes on the right wing streaking through the neutral zone.  Barnes drove towards the net and made Odessa goaltender Robin Johansson over-commit with a shifty deke before ripping top-shelf shot to bring the score to 1-1.

Johnstown went on the powerplay at 9:25 after fight between Logan Hudson and Odessa’s Jake Hamilton, who drew the instigator penalty in response to Hudson’s collision with league-leading scorer Kenny Hausinger.  Seconds after the man advantage expired, Peter Bates fought through a pair of Jackalopes defenders to sneak a pass to Luke Lynch, parked directly in front of Johansson.  Lynch snapped a shot into the back of the net to claim a 2-1 Johnstown lead at 11:29, with Josh Bowes also assisting on the play.

Less than a minute later, Odessa responded with a one-time slap shot from Andrew McClean following a sharp pass from Derek Brown to even the score.  The Jackalopes reclaimed the lead at 17:36 when Tyler Nabozny, working behind the net, found Hampus Sjodahl alone in front of the opposite side of Bednard’s crease.  Sjodahl unleashed a quick shot past an outstretched Bednard to pull ahead 3-2.

Johstown responded early and often in the third period, climbing ahead to a 4-3 lead in just the first minute of the period.  Just 0:41 into the period, Trevor Recktenwald passed to Alex Jaeckle along the blue line, and the defenseman fired a shot into the net past Johansson for the goal.  Joe Drabin also assisted for Johnstown.

On the next shift, Drabin added a goal of his own when Brady Bender forced a turnover at the offensive zone blue line and shipped a pass to a waiting Drabin, who had bulldozed his way past the Jackalopes’ defense and toward the net.  Drabin jammed the puck past Johansson for the 4-3 lead at 1:00, chasing the Odessa goaltender from the game.

Johnstown found themselves in penalty trouble, as Jake Houston was called for a check from behind minor at 6:11.  With Cam Bleck already in the box for a cross check at 5:03, the Jackalopes went on the attack with a 4-on-3 powerplay.  Odessa defenseman Jesse Juntilla found Miami-Ohio commit Alex Alger cutting towards the net, and the winger redirected the puck past Bednard to tie the game at 4-4 at 7:19 of the third.

Johnstown responded at 10:16, when Joe Drabin scored his second goal of the game on the powerplay.  With Odessa’s Alger in the box for a high-stick, Johnstown’s Andrew Romano carried the puck into the zone and wrapped around the ice to find defenseman Steve Quagliata waiting at the point.  Quagliata zipped a pass to defensive partner Jake Houston, who quickly returned the puck to Romano for a blistering wrist shot against Odessa back-up netminder Parker Butler.  The rebound  went directly to Drabin, who whipped the puck into the open net to reclaim the 5-4 Johnstown lead.

The Tomahawks continued to lay the pressure on the Jackalopes, peppering Butler with shots and moving the puck with precision and confidence, particularly with a near-goal by Cam Bleck immediately following a Johnstown powerplay and a disallowed goal by Luke Lynch after the rookie forward slammed into Parker.  Lynch was called for a charging penalty on the play, giving Odessa another powerplay attempt with 5:25 remaining.

Bednard and the Tomahawks held strong, repelling several strong Odessa chances in the waning minutes of the period.  With Parker pulled for the extra attacker, Johnstown’s Cam Bleck sent a 150-foot shot across the rink into the net to cement the 6-4 victory at 19:34.

The win moves both teams to a 2-3-0 record to start the season.  Johnstown finishes the 2014 NAHL Showcase with a 2-2-0 showing during the yearly early-season gathering of all NAHL teams.

Today’s game was also the first regular season appearance of Ebensburg, Pa., native Connor Eckenrod

In net, Bednard stopped 18 of 22 shots, while Johansson and Parker combined to make 28 of saves on 33 Johnstown shots.  It was Bednard’s  first win of his NAHL career, advancing his record to 1-2-0 on the year.

Johnstown finished the day with no powerplay goals on seven attempts, although two goals came immediately after the man-advantage expired.  The Tomahawks penalty killers performed soundly, limiting Odessa to one powerplay goal on eight attempts.

Through five games, the Tomahawks have scored 15 goals, while allowing 23 goals against.  Drabin and Barnes are tied for the team lead in scoring, with each player scoring two goals and three assists.  Barnes has played in all five games, while Drabin has suited up for just four games.  Romano, Jaeckle and Reckenwald each have two goal and two assists in five games so far.

The Tomahawks will head to Flint, Mich., next weekend for a pair of games against North Division rivals the Michigan Warriors, who were winless in three games entering the final day of the NAHL Showcase. 

Johnstown begins their home schedule on Saturday, October 25 against the Keystone Ice Miners. Individual game tickets and season ticket packages are available now, with 14-game flex plans starting at under $99. For more information, go to www.johnstowntomahawks.com or call 814-536-4625.