Johnstown Tomahawks vs. Springfield Jr. Blues
March 1 and 2 at 7 p.m. CST
Nelson Center, Springfield, IL
By Suzanne Grove and Ed Sheets
This weekend’s series is crucial for the Tomahawks. Although the two clubs have not been major rivals this season and have only played each other two times prior to this Friday and Saturday, the Tomahawks are in need of wins to boost team morale and points to secure their position in the 2013 NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs. A team that earlier in the season might have inspired less passion, Springfield is now the center of the Hawks attention as they look to battle hard to return to their winning ways and earn four points on the road.
Springfield and Johnstown have only met inside the War Memorial Arena up until this point with two games on 11/3 and 11/4 that resulted in only one point for the Tomahawks: The Jr. Blues won, 4-3, in OT during the teams’ first matchup and skated away with the sweep and four points after a 6-4 victory the following night.
Johnstown goaltenders Colin Brennan and Chris Truehl each faced the Jr. Blues once with Truehl allowing the overtime loss, stopping 18 of 22 shots. Springfield went a combined 1-for-6 on the power play that weekend while Johnstown went 1-for-10. The shots over the course of two games were incredibly close, with Springfield only outshooting Johnstown 56-53. The Tomahawks power play and penalty kill record has been better than the Jr. Blues’, so look for the Hawks to capitalize on the man-advantage.
Connor Wright (2-1-3) and Mitch Kontny (1-2-3) both have the most points against Springfield with three. Wright also has the most shots against them with eight. Meanwhile, for the opponent, Ryan Atkinson has gone 4-0-4 and Mike Fazio and James McGing each have three points against the Hawks.
On Nov. 3 Johnstown rallied in the third period to come back from a 3-1 deficit, but Springfield’s Ryan Atkinson scored a hat trick including the overtime game-winner with 1:44 remaining in overtime to give the Jr. Blues a 4-3 overtime win. Jordan Watt’s goal at 10:25 cut the deficit to 3-2 and just 1:04 later, Jeff Bergh would tie the game for his third goal of the season, sending the team into its eighth overtime of the season. Atkinson scored two first period goals in the first five minutes, including one just 12 seconds into the game. Johnstown would get on the board on a Casey Nelson power-play goal at 3:40 to make it a 2-1 game. Springfield’s Mitch Rogge scored at 12:39 of the second period to make it a 3-1 game.
On Nov. 4 Johnstown led 4-2 going into the third period, but Springfield scored four unanswered goals, including Mike Fazio’s game-winner with 1:50 remaining, to give the Jr. Blues the 6-4 win. Johnstown’s Andrew McDonald started the scoring with a stick-side goal less than five minutes into the game. Springfield quickly made it 2-1 with goals from Atkinson and Trevor Stone just 19 seconds apart. Johnstown tied the game 2-2 on a Wright shot past the glove of Ryan Kellenberger. Kontny gave the Tomahawks a 3-2 lead at 13:00 and Wright finished the Tomahawks scoring with less than a minute remaining in the second period. Springfield received third period goals from Mike Severson, Devin Mitchell, and Nate Chasteen, who scored on an empty net after Brennan was pulled with 1:15 left in the game.
Friday marks each team’s 53rd game overall. Johnstown will play its 25th road game while Springfield will play its 27th home game.
THE TOMAHAWKS (22-18-12)
The Tomahawks have remained in fourth place in the North Division for months. They now have 56 points, 16 points behind the division-leading Eagles and 12 points removed from the Jamestown Ironmen who sit one position above them in the standings. This weekend series is a must-win for the Tomahawks who are fighting for every point in hopes of clinching a playoff spot. The team has not won a game since Feb. 9 in Janesville, losing it’s previous four games in a row, all of which took place at home. The Tomahawks are 3-4-3 in their last 10 games and 1-2-2 in their last five. They have not earned a sweep since Dec. 7 and 8 in Fresno, whom they also played last weekend, earning two points in two overtime losses.
Last weekend, Matt Salituro scored two goals and Jacob McDowell scored the game-winning goal in the shootout as the Fresno Monsters defeated the Johnstown Tomahawks, 3-2, Friday night at home. Former Fresno Monsters McDonald and Zach Wallace each had a point in the game for Johnstown with McDonald scoring and Wallace adding an assist. The Tomahawks went 0-for-3 on the power play while Fresno went 1-for-4. Tomas Sholl picked up the win, stopping 30 of 32 shots in regulation and one of five shots in the shootout. Chris Truehl took the loss stopping 31 of 33 shots in regulation and three of five shots in the shootout. Smith-Mass aso scored for Johnstown.
On Saturday night the Tomahawks and Monsters once again needed extra hockey to determine a winner. Unfortunately, history repeated itself as Fresno defeated Johnstown in the shootout, 2-1, in front of the 6th sellout crowd of the season. The Tomahawks dominated the shots on goal in the game, outshooting Fresno 40-20 overall, while leading in shots each period and in overtime.
Macauley Haight picked up the win stopping 39 of 40 shots and all four shots in the shootout. Truehl took the loss stopping 18 of 19 shots, and two of four in the shootout. Truehl has played in 13 of the last 15 games, going 5-4-2. Baker was the lone scorer for the Tomahawks. The loss gave the Tomahawks 12 overtime and shootout losses this season, compared to 22 regulation wins.
With 30 points (10-20-30), Casey Nelson is tied at sixth in the league for points among defenseman. He also leads the entire league in shots by defenseman with 185– 49 more than Janesville’s Ruslan Pedan, who comes in second . . . Gylling continues to lead his team in points with 42 (16-26-42) and Mitch Kontny leads the team in goals with 19 (19-16-35).
The Tomahawks are 18-13-9 against teams in their own division.
Special Teams: The Tomahawks are 49-for-267 on the power play this season (18.4%) for third place in the league and first in the division. They have created more power-play opportunities than anyone else in the league and are second in PP goals. Meanwhile, the team is 204-for-242 (84.3%) on the penalty kill.
Following this weekend, the Tomahawks only have two home games remaining: They host the Jamestown Ironmen on March 8 and 9.
THE JR. BLUES (22-26-4)
Springfield is currently clinging to the sixth and final playoff spot in the North Division with 48 points, just two points ahead of Janesville and seven points behind Michigan. They sit just four points behind Port Huron and eight points behind the Tomahawks.
The Jr. Blues have gone 4-5-1 in their last ten games, and are 10-15-1 at home this season. Last weekend, the Jr. Blues split a weekend series against the Soo Eagles in Springfield.
On Feb. 22, Springfield had goals scored by six different scorers, including two goals from Ryan Atkinson in a 7-1 win over the Eagles. Terry Leabo added three assists and Matt Leon stopped 33 of 34.
The following night, the Jr. Blues, took a 5-4 lead, with 3:52 remaining in the third period, but Soo scored two goals in 52 seconds to escape with a 6-5 win. Brett Skibba scored two goals in the loss, and Leabo added three assists in the loss. Leon took the loss, allowing six goals on 30 shots.
Brett Skibba leads the Jr. Blues in goals (27), points (49), and his 22 assists are tied with Terry Leabo for the team lead.
Special Teams: The Jr. Blues are 36-for-219 on the power play this season (16.4%) for ninth in the league and fourth in the division behind Johnstown, Kalamazoo, and Jamestown. The team is
160-for-193 (82.9%) on the penalty kill.
Following this weekend, the Jr. Blues will travel to Michigan and Soo, before returning home to close the regular season against Kalamazoo on Mar. 29 and 30.