In the 2012-13 season, Nick Shackford was an assistant for the Kenai River Brown Bears and fans got a taste for Shackford’s nose for talent when the team orchestrated a late-season trade for goalie Marcus Zelzer that ignited the most successful stretch in club history.
Friday and Saturday, fans again saw Shackford’s talent for talent procurement in effect when the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks team he helped put together as assistant coach topped the Bears 8-2 Friday and 5-3 Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Tomahawks are now 9-1-0-1 in the North American Hockey League, while the Bears fall to 0-8-1-0.
Friday, the official scoresheet had the Tomahawks getting goals from eight different players, with Filips Buncis adding three assists to his goal and Donovan Ott adding a pair of assists to his goal.
“We have some big forwards that can shoot the puck,” said Shackford, who took over on the bench late in the second period when head coach Mike Letizia was given a game misconduct. “We had good shot volume tonight.
“The problem comes when they don’t shoot the puck.”
Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton said his team competed better than in a 3-0 loss to Johnstown on Wednesday.
“They have a good team,” Worlton said. “They have some skilled and big players.”
The Bears got out of the first period down 2-1 after Ryan Mezera, assisted by Matthew Thielemann and Anthony Tzveyn, scored late in the period on the power play.
In the second and third periods, the game was filled with penalties. Johnstown took 8 for 34:00 in the second and 4 for 16:00 in the third, while the Bears took six for 33:00 in the second and five for 31:00 in the third.
Johnstown took advantage of a bunch of Kenai River penalty-killing to go up 5-1 in the second, with one of those goals coming on the power play.
But the Tomahawks committed a flurry of penalties at the end of the second period, with Kenai River cutting the gap to 5-2 late in the second with a Sam Sterne power-play goal assisted by Tzveyn and Thielemann.
The Bears then had a good chance to cut into the lead further with a five-on-three power play that started in the second period and ended in the third period, immediately followed by five-on-four power play for two minutes.
But the Tomahawks killed all that off with 17:03 left in the game, then scored 35 seconds later to effectively ice the game. They added two goals later in the period on a five-minute power play for good measure.
“The penalty kill did well,” Shackford said. “Anytime you can kill off a five-on-three, especially on clean ice, it’s big.”
Vinnie Purpura had 28 saves for the Tomahawks, while Bailey Seagraves and Connor Poczos combined for 25 saves for the Bears.
Worlton said the goaltending was not as good as it has been, but that everyone shared in the loss.
“I’m not going to point the finger at them,” Worlton said. “We had a chance to score more goals, and didn’t, and we took too many penalties.”
Saturday, the Bears fell into a 4-0 hole, but goals by Aidan Teilborg, Evan Butcher and Thielemann had it 4-3 in the third before Nick Bruce iced it late in the third.
“We battled and competed,” Worlton said. “We played hard and we were able to score goals.
“We got better today. It’s not the outcome everyone wants, but we didn’t quit and we’re not quitting. Our players should feel OK about tonight’s game.”
Worlton said the New Jersey Titans and Tomahawks, who combined to beat the Bears in their first five home games, are playing well right now. Johnstown nearly pulled off a sweep in Fairbanks last weekend and New Jersey completed a sweep of the Ice Dogs on Saturday.
“We counted. We have 17 kids that can come back next year. It’s all part of the process,” Worlton said.
Worlton also liked the way Aidan Teilborg stood up for his teammate with a fight Saturday.
Drew Hotte had 17 saves for Johnstown, while Seagraves had 28 for the Bears.
Tomahawks 8, Brown Bears 2
Johnstown 2 3 3 —8
Kenai River 1 1 0 —2
First period — 1. Johnstown, Bruce (Hunter, Smith), 10:36; 2. Johnstown, Smith (Doyon, Buncis), 14:32; 3. Kenai River, Mezera (Thielemann, Tzveyn), pp, 17:57. Penalties — Johnstown 3 for 14:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 4. Johnstown, Doyon (Hale, Bruce), 4:40; 5. Johnstown, Buncis (Bokun, Ott), pp, 5:55; 6. Johnstown, Ott (Buncis, Hunter), 14:55. 7. Kenai River, Sterne (Tzveyn, Thielemann), pp, 18:45. Penalties — Johnstown 8 for 34:00; Kenai River 6 for 33:00.
Third period — 8. Johnstown, Solensky (Rowan), 3:22; 9. Johnstown, Pilewicz (Rowan), pp, 14:11; 10. Johnstown, Bokun (Buncis, Ott), pp, 15:58. Penalties — Johnstown 4 for 16:00; Kenai River 5 for 31:00.
Shots on goal — Johnstown 13-9-11—33; Kenai River 12-8-10—30.
Goalies — Johnstown, Purpura (30 shots, 28 saves); Kenai River, Seagraves (22 shots, 17 saves), Poczos (11 shots, 8 saves).
Power plays — Johnstown 3 for 10; Kenai River 2 for 8.
Tomahawks 5, Brown Bears 3
Johnstown 2 2 1 —5
Kenai River 0 1 2 —3
First period — 1. Johnstown, Hunter (Buncis, Ott), 9:42; 2. Johnstown, Doyon (Ott, Bokun), 10:48. Penalties — Johnstown 4 for 26:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 3. Johnstown, Iehle (Solensky), pp, 5:57; 4. Johnstown, Ott (Buncis), pp, 13:28; 5. Kenai River, Teilborg (Kaplan, Marzec), 19:58. Penalties — Johnstown 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 4 for 8:00.
Third period — 6. Kenai River, Butcher (Inger), pp, 10:23; 7. Kenai River, Thielemann (Inger), pp, 17:48; 8. Johnstown, Bruce (Rowan), pp, en, 18:54. Penalties — Johnstown 6 for 23:00; Kenai River 7 for 25:00.
Shots on goal — Johnstown 20-12-1—33; Kenai River 6-12-2—20.