It took seven power plays for the K-Wings to finally crack the Tomahawks’ penalty kill on Saturday night at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
But it wasn’t enough as the hosts held on for a 4-1 victory over Kalamazoo, sweeping the weekend series and passing the K-Wings to move into fourth place in the North Division.
“We did a great job, we killed a lot of penalties (Saturday night),” Johnstown coach Jason Spence said. “The guys are willing to pay the price. They’re getting in the lanes, they’re blocking shots and they’re getting to loose pucks. We wanted those loose pucks more and that means a lot on the penalty kill.”
The Tomahawks killed six straight penalties, including a five-minute major in the first period, before finally allowing a third-period power play goal, the first in two games with Kalamazoo this weekend.
“When your special teams aren’t clicking, it’s tough to win hockey games,” Kalamazoo assistant coach Matt Staehely said. “It looks like they’re playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of energy. They’ve got a good club over there.”
Johnstown killed six minutes of penalties in the first seven minutes of the game before scoring the opening goal. Defenseman Jake Fairchild cradled a pass from Andrew McDonald in the low slot and ripped a shot past Kalamazoo goaltender Alex Okicki for the 1-0 lead 11:09 into the game.
The barrage of penalties (13 combined) prevented either team from getting into much of a flow for the first two periods. It looked as though the tight game would stay that way with Johnstown clinging to a one-goal cushion with less than a minute left in the middle frame.
Then, the speedy McDonald hauled in a Jaycob McCombs pass, streaked through the right circle and fired a slap shot over Okicki’s blocker to give Johnstown a 2-0 lead heading into the final period.
“Huge goal,” Spence said. “Even our goal at the end was huge. If we don’t get that (for the 4-1 lead), they pull their goalie, if they score it’s a one-goal game. The guys just didn’t stop coming.”
Captain Mitch Kontny scored a power play goal 49 seconds into the third period and Zach Wallace added the insurance marker with 2:32 left.
Kalamazoo forward Danny Hamburg ended Johnstown’s perfect penalty killing streak with a power play goal 9:49 into the third period.
“The one thing I was really proud of was that there were no second shots,” Spence said. “We did a really good job of taking away the net front and they had shots from outside, but we denied those rebounds.”
Johnstown goaltender Chris Truehl stopped 21 of 22 shots, and was stellar on the penalty kill.
“He did a great job,” Spence said. “He let one in late, but he made some good stops. He was really good low tonight, denying the wraps and the rebounds.”
The Tomahawks continue to get production out of McDonald, who added a goal and an assist Saturday to his two-helper game on Friday night.
“We’re really happy with that trade,” Spence said of the McDonald acquisition. “He has something that you just can’t teach: A lot of speed and a lot of heart. He’s feisty, he hits, he digs the puck out, he can skate like the wind and we found out he can really shoot.”
Truehl, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound goaltender, earned his third win of the season, but not without help.
“I try to make enough saves to give our team a chance to win,” said Truehl. “Our defense did an incredible job. They kept guys out of the way and they cleared the rebounds that I did have. Blocking shots is huge to take some of the pressure off of me.”
In dropping the weekend series, Kalamazoo had trouble contending with two of the largest crowds of the season for the Tomahawks.
“It’s hard to beat anybody on the road in this league,” Staehely said. “Every team has home-ice advantage; it’s really big in our league. Coming into an atmosphere like this was tough. We don’t get the fan support and the community support that everybody here in Johnstown gives to the Tomahawks.”
Notes: The Tomahawks wore camouflage uniforms with Stars and Stripes trim in honor of Military Recognition Night. Veterans with proof of service were admitted free to the game. … Friday night’s win snapped a three game winless streak for the Tomahawks at Cambria County War Memorial Arena and was the first loss for Kalamazoo goaltender Marcus Due-Boje since he joined the