Rally for three unanswered goals to earn comeback win
Wide open hockey would be an apt way to describe what took place in Johnstown in game one of the weekend double header between the Tomahawks and Knights. 12 combined goals will earn that description every single time. Fast forward 24 hours and it was apparent what both teams chose to focus on in the short layover before game two; smash mouth, “make ‘em pay” hockey. Not lost between the scrambles in front, the violence along the walls and the plentiful penalty minutes, were the tallies in the twine as the two east division foes treated fans to yet another thriller in western Pennsylvania.
In place of the feverish pace played by both teams the night prior, the first period took on a much more defensive tone as both teams featured more measured yet still physically aggressive forechecks. Johnstown would win the first when it came to generating the better of the chances, and while on the man advantage late in the period, the red-hot Nick Bruce notched his third goal of the weekend at 17:23 (Ott, Pilewicz). The reigning East Division star of the week extended his point streak to five games, while setting the table for yet another impressive offensive performance.
Matters only improved for Johnstown when just 2:50 into the second, Tommy Horn took a pretty pass from Bruce-with the secondary helper from Bokun-and fired it by Valentine to build the ever-tenuous 2-goal lead. Though the Tomahawks once again gained the better of the offensive chances-they would follow up their 11-4 shot advantage in the first with an 11-5 count in the second-the turning point came on a failed Tomahawks opportunity to pull away on a mid-period powerplay. In the penalty’s closing seconds, Knights captain Tim Gelatt would give up the body in front of an open net to rob Johnstown of a sure powerplay goal. Shortly thereafter, the Knights would take their turn at the 5-on-4 and were quickly rewarded when Dorian Dawson walked the puck down from the point and fired it past Tomahawk goalie Vinnie Purpura.
With the score trimmed to 2-1, the Knights would survive the Tomahawks lingering chances to close the second and built momentum heading into the third. As the teams traded unsuccessful power plays, the Knights were anchored steady play in net from Grant Valentine (28/30, .933, 13th W) and this time a better share of shots on goal. Purpura would finally break at the 13:13 mark when Curtis Carlson drove the puck home on the set up from Sam Antonitsch. The former’s equalizer gives Carlson four goals in his last five games to go along with three assists. Antonitsch’s helper moves him to an NAHL-leading 8-game point streak, having tallied 6-5-11 in that span.
A scoreless final 6:47 would ensure overtime, the fourth such game of the Knights season. On the year, they entered the night with a 1-1 record in the extra five minutes and an 0-1 record in the shootout. On this occasion, it would be another surging Knight who would play the hero for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. At 1:08, Michael Morrissey fired the clincher right by the stick of Purpura to complete the Knights win.
With the loss, the Tomahawks fall to 26-8-2-1 on the year, but still maintain a comfortable hold on the division’s second place standing. The victory pushes the Knights to their 21st win of the season, one shy of last year’s total. The Knights will travel to New Jersey next Friday, February 3rd for their lone game of the week. There they’ll take on the New Jersey Titans at the Middletown Ice World Arena at 7:30 pm.