Tomahawks fall shy of pre-season upset against USHL opponent

The Johnstown Tomahawks faced their final tune-up of the pre-season Monday night, coming up just short of an upset in an exhibition match against the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL.

“We competed extremely hard,” coach Mike Letizia said of the 4-3 loss to the Phantoms. “We saw a lot of guys take a step forward and get better, but I think we maybe gave a little too much respect to Youngstown at the start of the game. Once we settled in, we matched them and played very well.”

The Phantoms, aided by numerous powerplay opportunities throughout the first two periods, built a 3-0 lead that was broken in the closing moments of the second period, when Zach Zech tipped a Steve Quagliata shot for a buzzer-beating goal.

The Tomahawks continued to chip away at the defecit in the third, when Peter Bates' wraparound attempt found its way to Andrew Romano, who jammed the puck into the net to bring the game to 3-2.

Halfway through the third, Garrison Sanipass took a Cam Bleck pass and drove towards the net for his own wraparound attempt. He slid the puck onto the backhand and past the Youngstown goalie to tie the game at 3.

Youngstown reclaimed the lead late in the period when an awkward bounce made its way past Johnstown goalie Brett Young, who played the entire game.

“Brett played well,” Letizia said. “He battled hard and gave us a chance to win. Overall, it was very encouraging to see the steps we're taking as a team. This was a really good test for us. We fell just short, but we learned a lot from the game.”

The Tomahawks will now use the remainder of the week to prepare for their regular season opener on the road this Saturday against their new in-state rivals, the Keystone Ice Miners. The former Port Huron Fighting Falcons franchise relocated to Connellsville during the off-season.

The game begins at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 13. Fans can view the action live at

The Tomahawks home opener is Saturday, Oct. 25, also against the Ice Miners. Season ticket packages are now available, starting at less than $99. For tickets or information, call 814-536-4625.