Monday, August 22 is a special day here in Johnstown.
It marks the start of Tomahawks training camp and the beginning of another season in the North American Hockey League.
Celebrating their fifth anniversary season, the Tomahawks are preparing for a long road trip, which starts on Sept. 9 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights at Pittston, Pa.
Head Coach Mike Letizia is ready for the season to start with plenty of new faces on the roster.
“We had a lot of guys who moved onto college hockey, which is great for our organization,” Letizia said. “We want to build on last year and be a team that is strong every night, consistent and win as many games as we can.”
Seventeen players committed to the NCAA from the 2015-16 roster, which set a team record. The team finished third in the standing with 67 points (another record).
The team swept second-place New Jersey in three games before falling to the Aston Rebels in the Division Final.
For 2016-17, the NAHL added another team to the East Division in the Northeast Generals, located in Attleboro, Mass.
“It is going to be a tough division this year,” Letizia said. “It makes for great rivalries but we know this will be battle every night and we are looking forward to it.”
With construction at the War Memorial delaying the home portion of the schedule to Nov. 11, the Tomahawks will be on the road during that span.
Letizia looks at it as an opportunity for his team to develop chemistry.
“The biggest thing for us is to gel right out of the gate since we have new guys coming in,” Letizia said. “For us as a coaching staff, it is important for us to build that camaraderie right away. If we have a close-knit group it will help us pick up points early and help us in the long run.”
Camp features a mix of returning players, draft picks, free agents and tenders, a talent pool which Letizia and assistant coach Nick Shackford discovered through countless hours of scouting.
“I think we drafted well and scouted well during the offseason and now we have to develop our team to the way we want to play,” said Letizia. “We have to be tough to play against and combine that skill and toughness. You have to be a team-first player and give the team 110 percent every night.”
In addition to training camp, the team will play three preseason games as a tune-up beofre the season starts Sept. 9
Friday, Sept. 2 the Tomahawks host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Kirk S. Nevin Arena in Greensburg for a 7 p.m. faceoff.
Saturday, Sept. 3 the Eastern Hockey League’s New York Applecore take on the Tomahawks at S&T Bank Arena in Indiana at 5 p.m.
Johnstown hosts Applecore again Sunday, Sept. 4 at 1 p.m. at North Central Recreation Center in Ebensburg.
Tickets for all three games are $5 per ticket and can be purchased here.
The 2016-17 season begins with weekend series with the Knights on Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10.
Fans can purchase full and flex season ticket plans for the 2016-17 season by calling the Tomahawks office at (814) 536-4625 or visit the team office at the War Memorial.