From the 2005-06 to the 2011-12 seasons, the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks organization was located in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys.
The Tomahawks are making themselves feel right at home again on their current North American Hockey League road trip to Alaska.
After pulling three points out of a weekend series in Fairbanks, Johnstown (7-1-0-1) started a three-game series with the Kenai River Brown Bears (0-6-1-0) with a 3-0 victory Wednesday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in front of 125 fans.
The series concludes with 7:30 p.m games Friday and Saturday.
Johnstown head coach Mike Letizia said the team has seen a whirlwind of travel lately, playing in the NAHL Showcase in Minnesota before returning to Pennsylvania for a few days, only to fly right to Alaska. The Tomahawks flew into Kenai on Wednesday, and Letizia said his squad didn’t play that well.
“We know we’re in for a tough weekend,” he said.
Johnstown was able to record the win due to its penalty-killing units.
The Tomahawks took the lead in the first period when Joseph Kile was able to block a shot and carry the puck before shuffling it to Tiernan Seningen. It was the type of gritty play Letizia said he would have liked to see more of.
“It was a good first,” Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton said. “A mistake by a D cost us a goal.”
In the second period, the Bears had a great chance to equalize when they earned 46 seconds of a five-on-three power play.
But after failing to create many scoring chances on that power play, Hayden Rowan, a 17-year-old who has already committed to Yale, put the Tomahawks up 2-0 just 38 seconds after the kill when he fluttered a shot toward goal that fooled Kenai River goalie Bailey Seagraves.
“We didn’t talk,” Worlton said. “On a five-on-three, you should score. If you don’t score on a five-on-three, you’re usually not going to win the game.”
The Bears earned another power play with 4:44 to play in the second, but Johnstown again gained momentum by killing it off and, just over a minute later, was up 3-0 when Samuel Solensky scored.
The Bears would finish 0 for 5 on the power play, while Johnstown was 0 for 3.
“The PK was big,” Letizia said. “We played a lot of guys on it and they sacrificed and blocked shots.”
The third period was mostly even, with Johnstown winning the shot count 8-6, and Kenai River never threatening to get back in the game.
Britt League, just a few weeks shy of turning 17, had 19 saves to record the shutout.
“He did a good job,” Letizia said. “There were a couple of times we left him out to dry.”
Just 1:05 into the second period, Kenai River’s David Kaplan created a turnover and appeared to have League beat, but the goalie made a sprawling save.
Worlton also was happy with Seagraves, who made 39 saves.
“He made one mistake on the second goal, but you can’t blame the goalies,” Worlton said. “We’ve scored one goal in the last three games.”
Tomahawks 3, Brown Bears 0
Johnstown 1 2 0 —3
Kenai River 0 0 0 —0
First period — 1. Johnstown, Seningen (Kile), 11:05. Penalties — Johnstown 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Johnstown, Rowan (Doyon), 8:09; 3. Johnstown, Solensky (Biasillo, Doyon), 18:27. Penalties — Johnstown 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — none. Penalties — Johnstown 4 for 19:00; Kenai River 3 for 17:00.
Shots on goal — Johnstown 16-18-8—42; Kenai River 5-8-6—19.
Goalies — Johnstown, League (19 shots, 19 saves); Kenai River, Seagraves (42 shots, 39 saves).