On the Hunt

Alex Jaeckle was one of two tenders signed
by the Tomahawks on Sunday, May 19 after impressing coaches and staff.


On the Hunt

The Tomahawks begin the search for new talent at three tryout camps

 this summer in preparation for the 2013-2014 season.


By Suzanne Grove


The Johnstown Tomahawks organization may have had an exceptional inaugural season, from earning the NAHL’s prestigious “Organization of the Year” award and making the Robertson Cup Playoffs to raising more than $25,000 for hundreds of local charitable, non-profit, and youth hockey organizations.


But, the team is hungry for more.


As spring’s warm weather and random bursts of rain give way to a hot summer in Johnstown, the offices of Suite 115 in the War Memorial Arena remain busy as the Front Office Staff works hard to create new and exciting game-night entertainment experiences, plan community events, and get the word out about season tickets.


But a few select members of the Tomahawks staff are choosing to endure a chillier climate: the hockey rink. General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations Rick Boyd, Head Coach Jason Spence, and Assistant Coach Mike Letizia will spend their summer on the hunt for talented young hockey players to become part of Johnstown’s hockey legacy.


The Tomahawks are dedicated to building a strong, skilled team on the ice every season and pushing each man to perform at his best level. With a few roster spots open due to players making college commitments or surpassing the NAHL age limit, there’s room for a few – or perhaps many – new faces in the Hawks locker room. No man gets a free pass to play on Spence’s ice: Even those players who were part of the franchise’s first year in Johnstown must earn the right to once again have their names stitched on the back of a Tomahawks jersey this fall.


The competition for roster spots began on May 17 in Mt. Clemens, MI, the first of three tryout camps. Luckily, a chance to play for the Hawks has attracted some tremendous talent.


The talent level was the best we have seen to date,” said Boyd. “Of the nearly 90 players who attended the camp, we have invited 19 to come back to Johnstown for Main Camp in July."


During the three-day camp, players were divided into four teams and each player played in one game on Friday and two on Saturday before more than half of the attendees were cut in preparation for the All-Star Game on Sunday.


The Michigan camp also provided the Tomahawks an opportunity to sign two new tenders. Alex Jaeckle and Shane Bednard, both hailing from the Detroit Little Caesars AAA Hockey Club, left an impression on Spence.


“Both of these men are not only amazing hockey players, but great people,” said Spence. “They can’t wait to come play for us. Their enthusiasm is exactly what you want. We’re very excited.”


Jaeckle, a defenseman from St. Clair Shores, MI, touts powerful skating skills and the ability to contribute offensively. According to Boyd, he will serve as a take-charge, big-bodied addition to the team. The Tomahawks were Jaeckle’s choice team after researching and exploring his options. The Springfield Jr. Blues called him up for two games last season, when he had 16 assists and 18 points (2-16-18) in 56 games for the Little Caesars.


Meanwhile, Bednard left a strong impression on Boyd.


“He’s a fast, gritty goal-scoring forward,” said Boyd. “He works hard in the corners and has a knack for finding the back of the net. He’s also very exciting to watch.”


The Macomb, MI native had 17 goals and 36 assists (17-36-53) in 57 games last season as a forward. 


“The puck is like a magnet on his stick,” said Spence. “He works hard in both the offensive and defensive zones and was a large part of the offense his team created last season.”


Despite being happy with the results of the first camp, Boyd, Spence, and Letizia are determined to continue building their list of invitations to Main Camp with only the best players. On June 7-9, the second camp will take place in Lake Prior, MN, and the final camp is set for June 22-23 in Warrendale, PA, 20 miles north of Pittsburgh.


“We’re only interested in bringing on the best players who understand our philosophy of hard work, sacrifice, and commitment not only to the team and their teammates, but also to the community,” said Boyd. “With both old and new faces, we know we’ll have built a team to contend with come this September.”