It might be easy to say the last-place Michigan Warriors have the Johnstown Tomahawks’ number this season.
Then again, Warriors goaltender Trevor Gorsuch had much more to do with his team’s 3-1 victory over Johnstown than luck or fate did on Friday night.
“We had to rely on our goalie too much,” said Warriors coach Moe Mantha, the former Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman and ex-ECHL Columbus Chill coach. “Our goalie was unbelievable.
“Our goalie won the game for us. He made some unbelievable saves. We were outshot all three periods.”
Gorsuch made 47 stops as the Tomahawks outshot the Warriors 48-26 at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Johnstown had a 19-5 shots on goal advantage in the first period and outshot the Warriors 18-11 in the second.
The home team converted only 1 of 6 power-play opportunities. The Tomahawks moved the puck and created opportunities with the man advantage, including a five-minute major in the middle period. But they just couldn’t add to an early one-goal lead.
“Their goalie played really well. We had lots of chances,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said. “We couldn’t score. We played physical. We played with speed. We played with a lot of emotion. The pucks just didn’t go in.”
Michigan has been a major hurdle for the ’Hawks.
The Warriors have won four straight against Johnstown since sweeping a three-game set in Flint, Mich., Jan. 4-6. Five of Michigan’s 14 wins this season are against the Tomahawks.
The teams meet again today at 7 p.m. on Johnstown Hockey Heritage Night.
“Sometimes you get a team’s number. But all of the games – other than one lopsided game – have been close games, one or two goals,” Mantha said. “You think about it after the second period. … The Tomahawks could of, would of. They outplayed us in the first two periods and our goalie won the game for us.”
Johnstown’s Jordan Watt gave the home team a one-goal advantage 10:19 into the game played in front of 2,028 fans. Watt converted a power play with assists by defensemen Ian Spencer and Mitch Hall.
But Michigan’s Connor Lyons scored on a power play at 13:24 of the opening period.
“Their first goal, the defenseman blocked it and it went right onto the guy’s tape,” Spence said. “He was in the right position.”
Neither team found the net in the second period, though the Tomahawks put intense pressure on Gorsuch, especially during the five-minute major following Robert Click’s spearing penalty. Click also got a game misconduct.
“(Gorsuch) made some stops and gave us a chance to hang around and hang around,” said Mantha, whose team is 6-2 since Dec. 31 with four of those wins at the Tomahawks’ expense. “Then we were able to get a couple breaks ourselves.
“The Tomahawks played a heck of a hard game. They just met a goalie who stood on his head.”
Michigan’s AJ Marcinek scored at 11:50 of the third, and Lyons found an empty net to seal it with 1:05 remaining. The Tomahawks were on a power play and had goalie Chris Truehl pulled for an extra attacker.
“The hockey gods weren’t shining on us tonight,” Spence said after Johnstown lost for the seventh time in eight games. “The great thing about hockey in these leagues is a lot of times you get a crack at the same team the next day. We have that to look forward to. We’ve got to come out with everything we have.”
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