Mitch Kontny recently relocated from Palmer, Alaska, to Johnstown.
Though he and 11 other teammates actually traversed some 4,000 miles southeast, Kontny feels the group of Junior A Tier II players actually moved up in the hockey world.
Kontny captains the Johnstown Tomahawks team that will make its Cambria County War Memorial Arena debut on Saturday night. Oh, by the way, a certain Hockey Hall of Famer named Mario Lemieux just happens to be stopping by to drop the ceremonial first puck for the 7:30 p.m. contest.
“Everything is coming along, the rink, everything is so nice and we’re so excited to get ready for this weekend,” said Kontny, who is counting on a sellout crowd to help spark the Tomahawks (1-3-2) in their home opener. “It looks like a professional rink. Everything is just perfect. The locker room is amazing. You couldn’t ask for anything different.”
The 20-year-old forward from Superior, Mich., is in his second NAHL season. Last year, he tallied 18 goals and 39 points in 56 games with the former Alaska Avalanche – the NAHL franchise whose move to Johnstown was announced in April.
With a goal and an assist in six games this season, Kontny made an impression on first-year head coach Jason Spence, the former blue-collar Johnstown Chiefs forward.
“Mitch wears his heart on his sleeve,” Spence said. “He’s the kind of player that can do a little bit of everything. He’s physical. He can shoot the puck. He sticks up for teammates. He’s a real character type of player.”
Kontny saw plenty of familiar faces in the Tomahawks locker room. Other Alaska-to-Johnstown returnees are: Defensemen Kristaps Bazevics, Casey Nelson, Jesse Kessler and Jeff Bergh; forwards Evan Hesse, Cobi Smith-Mass, Brandon Brossoit, Codey Hansen, Connor Wright, Jordan Watt; and goaltender Bodhi Engum.
The lineup also includes a player with local ties, 6-1 forward Cody Boyd, son of Tomahawks GM Rick Boyd – the former Johnstown Chiefs tough guy and fiery captain. The younger Boyd played 24 games for the NAHL’s Bismark Bobcats last season.
The Tomahawks have a Pennsylvania flavor with four Keystone State representatives as well as players from places ranging from Riga, Latvia, to Sunland Valley, Calif.
“Everyone gets along really well,” Kontny said. “We’re coming together as a family like every good hockey team does.”