Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings vs. Johnstown Tomahawks
When: Sunday, Dec. 30 & Monday, Dec. 31 at 6 p.m. ET
Where: War Memorial Arena, Johnstown, PA
By Suzanne Grove
Sunday and Monday will mark the fifth and sixth meetings between the Tomahawks and Jr. K-Wings for the 2012-2013 NAHL season. The two teams most recently played on Nov. 9-10 in Johnstown, where the Tomahawks earned the sweep against their North Division rivals. Prior to those games, the clubs split two games in Kalamazoo, Mi.
On Nov. 9 Johnstown found success on the power play, converting three of seven opportunities, to defeat Kalamazoo, 4-3, in front of a packed house at the War Memorial Arena. The Tomahawks penalty kill was also effective, stopping all of Kalamazoo’s chances. The Hawks also received goals from four different players: Jaycob McCombs, Connor Wright, Brandon Reinholz and Casey Nelson. Still, the K-Wings were able to get on the board first at 4:46 of the first period when Robbie Payne scored through traffic on starting goaltender Colin Brennan. Goalie Chris Truehl replaced Brennan for the start of the third as a precaution after Brennan strained his lower body while making a save. The Tomahawks outshot Kalamazoo, 35-21, and snapped a three-game losing streak at the War Memorial.
On Nov. 10 Andrew McDonald provided a goal and an assist as the Tomahawks achieved the weekend sweep of the K-Wings, beating them, 4-1. Truehl started in net, stopping 21 of 22 shots to pick up his 10th win of the season. Both teams were effective on the penalty kill with Johnstown going 4-for-5 and Kalamazoo going five-for-six. This time, Johnstown got on the board first after Jake Fairchild fired a shot past Kalamazoo goaltender Alex Ockicki for Fairchild’s first goal of the season at 11:09 of the first period. Andrew McDonald provided the lone assist on the goal, his third assist in two games. McDonald then made it 2-0 after he scored from above the right circle with 41 seconds remaining in the second period. Just 49 seconds into the third period, Mitch Kontny’s power-play goal from the right side gave the Tomahawks a 3-0 lead. Kalamazoo got its lone goal of the game at 9:49 of the third period after Danny Hamburg received a pass from Robbie Payne and fired it past Truehl.Zach Wallace set the final score with his first goal of the season at 17:28 of the third period.
This Sunday Johnstown will play its 32nd game of the season and its 15th home game while Kalamazoo will play its 33rd game and 18th road game. The two teams will not face each other again until March 23 and 24 in Michigan.
THE TOMAHAWKS (16-9-6)
The Tomahawks are currently in fourth place in the North Division with 38 points coming into the two-game homestand, seven points behind the division-leading Sault Ste. Marie Eagles and Jamestown Ironmen, who each have 45 points. Johnstown returns home to the War Memorial after two games in Port Huron, Michigan against the Fighting Falcons. After a 3-2 victory on Dec. 21 and a 4-3 loss on Dec. 22, Johnstown exited the weekend series with two points and had its three-game road winning streak snapped. The Tomahawks have proven themselves to be road warriors after going 8-2-1 in their last 10 away games. On Sunday and Monday, Johnstown will shift its focus and look to improve upon its 8-4-2 home record in hopes of once again sweeping the Jr. K-Wings for four more points.
On Dec. 21 the Tomahawks scored two power-play goals three minutes apart in the second period and Mike Sandor broke a tie with 4:25 to play as Johnstown beat Port Huron, 3-2. Sandor scored the game-winning goal, his first since Oct. 27 at Kalamazoo, unassisted in a highlight-reel play. Near the Port Huron blue line, Sandor swatted the puck out of the air, toe-dragged around a defenseman, and put the puck past Port Huron goaltender Max Milosek. With Andrew McDonald in the penalty box for slashing, the Fighting Falcons took advantage of a power-play opportunity to score first with 2:23 left in the first period when Nick Horne scored on Truehl. Truehl, who was back in net for the first time since the team’s Dec. 1 loss in Wenatchee, earned his sixth win with 17 saves. Nearly half of the second period elapsed before the Tomahawks scored two power-play goals to take the 2-1 lead. Tomahawk Connor Wright put a shot past Milosek to make the score 1-1. Using the momentum, Jordan Watt scored his 11th of the season exactly three minutes later with assists by Wright and McDonald. Jonathan Kopacka’s goal tied the score at 2-2 with 10 minutes remaining in the third period, but Sandor’s third goal of the season would make the Tomahawks victorious.
On Dec. 22, goals 1:18 apart by Johnstown’s McCombs and Jeff Bergh forged a 3-3 tie with less than three minutes to play, but defenseman Alex Archibald’s goal with 1:45 left gave Port Huron a 4-3 victory over the Tomahawks. McCombs scored twice for Johnstown, which entered the game with the second-best power play in the league (21.6 percent) but failed to convert either of its two man-advantages. The Tomahawks allowed two power-play goals and were outshot, 39-29. For the second night in a row, Port Huron got on the board first with less than five minutes remaining in the opening period when Mitch Maloney scored on goaltender Colin Brennan at 15:35. The Tomahawks’ McCombs evened the score with just four seconds remaining in the first period. In the second period, the Fighting Falcons took advantage of an Andrew McDonald penalty for slashing when Brett D’Andrea scored on the power play at 15:46. Penalties again hurt the Tomahawks when the Fighting Falcons forged a two-goal lead at 3:14 of the third period. McCombs brought the Tomahawks within one on his second goal of the night and sixth of the season at 15:51, and Bergh’s eighth goal of the season tied the game, 3-3, at 17:09. But Archibald, who earlier set up two goals, got the game-winner at 18:15.
Johnstown will head back out on the road for three games against the Michigan Warriors on Jan. 4, 5, and 6 before returning home for five games on two consecutive weekends.
THE Jr. K-WINGS (19-10-3)
The Jr. K-Wings enter the series with Johnstown after being swept by the Ironmen, losing 3-2 on both Dec. 21 and 22 in Jamestown. Kalamazoo is currently in third place in the North Division with 41 points, three ahead of Johnstown. The Jr. K-Wings have a road record of 8-6-3 and have gone 4-1-2 in their past seven road games. The two games with Johnstown mark the fifth and sixth games of the Jr. K-Wings 10-game road trip.
On Dec. 21, Kalamazoo got goals from Danny Hamburg and Patrick Spellacy in a game that ultimately headed to a shootout after Spellacy’s goal tied the game 2-2 at the end of the second period. After nine rounds, Jamestown beat Kalamazoo’s goaltender Alex Okicki to give the Ironmen the extra point.
On Dec. 22 the Jr. K-Wings once again lost to the Ironmen, who earned the 3-2 overtime victory. Robbie Payne and Brendan Vetter scored for Kalamazoo and the team started goaltender Marcus Due-Boje, who stopped 31 of 34 shots.
Kalamazoo will play its next two games against the Sault Ste. Marie Eagles on Jan. 4 and 5.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Casey Nelson: The native of Wisconsin Rapids, Wi. has proven to be an outstanding defenseman and vital part of the Tomahawks. For most of the season, Nelson has been a league leader in shots (he currently leads all defensemen with 113) and creates chances for Johnstown with his intelligent play. He currently has seven goals and 20 points, tying him with teammate Jeff Bergh for third place in the league for goals by a defenseman. He is also tied with two other players in the league for points by a defenseman.
Luc Boby: The Oswego, Il. native is currently three points behind teammate Robbie Payne, who leads the Jr. K-Wings with 30 points. He has a +13 and has four points in his last four games.
- · Johnstown continues to have the most OT losses in the league (six).
- · The Tomahawks leads the North Division in goals with 105 (fourth in the league).
- · Johnstown’s PP has gone 35-for-164 (21.3 percent, second in the league and first in the division) on the season while the PK has gone 118-for-140 (84.3 percent).
- · The Tomahawks lead the NAHL in power-play goals with 35.
- · Johnstown has the most power-play opportunities in the league with 164.
- · Kalamazoo’s PP is 19-for-115 (16.5 percent) and its PK is 105-for-125 (84.0 percent)