Putting behind the hubbub of Saturday’s home opener, along with the bitter taste of the shootout loss to Michigan, the Johnstown Tomahawks netted their first home win with a 4-2 decision over the Warriors at Cambria County War Memorial.
What was the difference between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon?
The answer could be the Tomahawks’ energy and intensity advantages over Michigan (2-5) following a short recovery time between games.
“That’s great because we had a bad taste in our mouth after (Saturday) night,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said. “It’s good to get right back at it, right back on the horse and get back at the team that bumped you the night before.”
That intensity advantage was apparent as soon as the puck met the ice.
Johnstown’s Cobi Smith-Mass and Michigan forward A.J. Marcinek dropped the gloves just a second into the game with both forwards landing punches before the pair tumbled to the ice.
Smith-Mass exited the game following the fight and did not return.
“He hurt his shoulder, I’m not sure how bad,” Spence said. “The doc looked at it ... I’ll get more word on it.”
A couple of minutes later, the Tomahawks’ Peyton Ruter and Michigan’s Martin Gruse traded punches behind the Warriors’ net, again igniting the Johnstown bench and the 1,423 fans in attendance.
The fights – at least the first one – were the result of taunting by Marcinek during Saturday’s loss.
“The first one – with No. 8 (Marcinek), started (Saturday),” Tomahawks forward Jesse Kessler explained. “After he scored in the shootout, he gave the hometown fans some gestures we didn’t like, so we handled that as soon as the game started today. And the second one, Ruter can fight and he went in there and he went at it.”
Johnstown (2-3-3) notched the game’s first goal midway through the second when Codey Hansen controlled a rebound off the post and potted his second goal in as many games at 10:50.
The Warriors replied at 17:40 when Brock Labelle tapped in a loose puck from the crease. The puck, initially shot by Corey Schuenman, bounced off Johnstown goaltender Bodhi Engum and fluttered in the crease before Labelle swooped in.
Engum, who made his first home start, stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced.
Johnstown grabbed a short-lived 2-1 lead at 3:26 of the third when J.B. Baker fed Hansen on a rush and Hansen finished with a shot over Michael Pesendorfer. Ian Spencer was also credited with an assist.
Marcinek leveled the score 14 seconds later with Zack Szajner assisting.
Kessler pushed the Tomahawks ahead to stay at 14:56 when he squeezed a shot through Pesendorfer’s pads. Brandon Brossoit sealed the victory at 19:06 when he guided a long-distance shot into an empty net. Brandon Reinholz was awarded an assist on the goal.
The Brossoit goal ensured that Johnstown would pick up its first win in regulation, thus avoiding a three-point contest against a division rival.
Two of Johnstown’s previous three games against North Division teams harvested three points, both were Johnstown losses.
“Every point you give up to a division rival is a big one,” Spence said. “It was good to keep that other point off the board.”