Hawk-ey Memories: A New Years Eve Tradition
Written by: David Nicoletti
Playing New Years Eve hockey at Downtown Johnstown’s Cambria County War Memorial Arena. It’s a city tradition that has been here ever since the Chiefs started it back in their day. Since then, the tradition has been carried over by the Tomahawks, who first stepped foot onto the ice in 2012.
Throughout their 10 year history, the Johnstown Tomahawks have taken part in 17 of the traditional games. Holding a record of 13-3-0-1, which includes a current running six-game winning streak, which started back on December 30th, 2018.
In today's edition of Hawk-ey Memories, we are going to take a look back at all of the games that the Hawks have taken part in during the tradition. Ranging back from 2012, and getting the fans ready for this year’s upcoming two game series.
To start, let’s flashback to December 30th, 2012, the very first game. Johnstown kicked off a two-game series against the Kalamazoo Jr. K Wings in front of 2,241 people. It was for sure a great way to kick things off, as Johnstown took home a 2-1 win over the Wings. Forwards Cody Gylling (2012-13 Leading Scorer), and alternate captain Jordan Watt both snuck pucks past future Tomahawks goaltender and current Wing at the time, Alex Okicki. Chris Truehl stopped 26/27 in the winning effort.
The following night however in front of a packed 3,725 crowd was a different story. The game stayed tied all the way from start to finish, with some goals from here to there. Captain Mitch Kontny registered both of Johnstown’s goals. The game had to go to a shootout, and from there, Kalamazoo forward Robbie Payne scored the game-winning-goal past goaltender Colin Brennan to take home the 3-2 win over the Hawks.
The next year kicked off the New Year's Eve tradition in front of 2,875 people on December 30th, 2013. Johnstown welcomed in the Michigan Warriors, and boy was it a good game. Forwards Matthew Meier and Tyler Basham put the Hawks up 2-0 going into the third period. The Warriors tied the game up in the final frame, and this one would seek its second straight shootout. But look no fear, T-Bash is here! Sneaking home the game winner past current ECHL goaltender Trevor Gorsuch. Jake Moore received the win, and Johnstown walked out of game one with a 3-2 victory.
Game two the following night saw a much different, and much better result for the Tomahawks. Sending home a group of 3,759 people happy on New Years Eve with a 4-1 win over the Warriors. Giving them the sweep in the series, ending the year just as it should be. Matt Meier scored two goals, while forwards Joe Drabin and Jordan Watt lit up the others. Okicki gained the win in net, as we now flash forward to 2014.
To kick things off, Johnstown welcomed the Fairbanks Ice Dogs to War Memorial Arena. Game one in front of 1,857 fans was not the result the Tomahawks were looking for. As Fairbanks took game one at a 6-3 final score. Forwards Andrew Romano, Cam Bleck, and Casey Linkenheld scored Johnstown’s goals. But there was always game two to turn things around.
The Tomahawks did just that, as an attendance of 3,250 experienced the series split over Fairbanks with a 3-1 victory. Forwards Bleck, Trevor Recktenwald, and Luke Lynch scored the goals. NHL Draft pick Ryan Bednard picked up the win in net, stopping a total of 29/30 shots.
2015 would only host one traditional game, taking place on New Years Eve. With it only being the only game of the Holiday year, a crowd of 3,671 would not be disappointed. A tied 2-2 game in the first 40 minutes of play, but Johnstown ran away with it in the third, taking home a 6-3 win over the visiting Kenai River Brown Bears. Linkenheld scored two goals, while forwards Romano, Lynch, Brendan Jaquay, and D-Man and current Penn State alternate captain Adam Pilewicz lit up the others. Goaltender Andrew Lindgren earned the win by stopping 19/22 in net.
Johnstown took New Years off and sweeped the series the following night at a final score of 3-1 on 01/02/2016
2016 welcomed back the Fairbanks Ice Dogs to the old barn. December 30th would host a crowd of 2,024 people. As well as a 5-1 Tomahawks victory following game one. Forward Donovan Ott scored two goals, Logan Stark (F) and Dalton Hunter (F) added on as well. Let’s not forget defensemen Chris Trouba scored in the game as well.
As the series shifted to game two on New Years Eve, Johnstown sent a crowd home of 3,733 happy. Shutting out the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and sweeping the series at a final score of 3-0. Ott scored another two, while Sam Solensky (F) lit the other one up. Goaltender Drew Hotte collected both of the wins in net, stopping a series total of 58/59.
Moving forward to 2017, Fairbanks once again returned to the newly named 1ST SUMMIT ARENA. However this year saw much different results in both games. Game one which hosted a crowd of 2,021 saw Fairbanks take home a 2-1 victory over the Tomahawks. Forward Mitchell Hale scored the lone goal for Johnstown.
Game two on New Year's Eve in front of 3,045 was not much better either. Johnstown was up 2-1 after one with goals from Roman Kraemer (F) and Joey Baez (F). However, Fairbanks took control the rest of the way through, as they went on to sweep the series after defeating the Tomahawks at a final score of 5-2. Not the year most fans wanted, but there was always next year!
December 30th, 2018, the start of something special. The Tomahawks welcomed in the Northeast Generals in front of a crowd of 2,111. The result, Johnstown taking home a 5-2 win over their division rivals. Solensky lit the lamp twice, Trouba did once, Cameron Hebert (F) and Bennett Stockdale (F) registered the others. Goaltender Carter McPhail earned the win in net, stopping a total of 32/35.
As the series shifted to game two, a packed crowd of 3,256 were looking to end the year off right. Did it happen? It sure did! It may have had to seek 14 seconds of overtime, but Johnstown got the job done by coming out victorious 3-2. Hebert, Solensky-GWG, and Carson Briere (F) all registered the goals. Cooper Lukenda’s 17 out of 19 in net led him to earn the victory. This was Johnstown’s third series sweep during the New Years Tradition, and the best was yet to come.
The next year in 2019 saw the Maine Nordiques rolling into town. Game one saw a crowd of 1,902, and they were not disappointed. Johnstown took home game one at a final score of 4-2. Season MVP Christian Gorscak scored two goals, while Spencer DenBeste lit up the other. Alex Tracy received the win, stopping 21/23.
Game two saw an even much better result for the Tomahawks in front of 3,108 people on New Year's Eve. A 7-2 win over the Nords gave Johnstown the sweep in the series. The second straight year the Tomahawks swept on the Holiday. Gorscak added another two, the others were scored by Andrew Murphy (F), Brendan Blair (D), Jesse Lycan (F), Tristan Poissant (F), and Max Kouznetsov (F). The win in net went to David Tomeo, after stopping a total of 26/28.
As 2020 welcomed in the Northeast Generals to 1ST SUMMIT ARENA. This year saw a much different outlook due to COVID-19. Both games on New Years Eve and New Years Day saw an empty arena. A 0 on the attendance sheet, forcing fans to watch the games on HockeyTV. But even an empty arena didn’t stop the Tomahawks from giving the fans a show on ice.
Game one on New Year's Eve saw Johnstown taking home a monster 8-0 win over the Generals. Forwards Jay Ahearn and John Gelatt lit the lamp twice, while Murphy, captain Alex Gritz (F), Daniel Tkac (F), and David Paluch (D) scored the other goals.
Johnstown then continued that dominance by ringing in the New Years in a very special way. Goaltender Sam Evola continued his shutout performance, stopping a series total of 53/53. Johnstown walked out with the series sweep, their third straight year, extending their holiday winning streak to six-games, defeating Northeast at a final score of 6-0. Ahearn recorded the hat trick, while Gelatt, Holt Oliphant (F), and Will Margel (F) registered the others.
Which now brings us into this year. Johnstown is set to welcome back the Northeast Generals this Friday and Saturday. This will be the Tomahawks’ second game on New Years, the very first game that will host fans. How many fans you might ask? We’ll just have to find out. Make sure you get your tickets now and come celebrate the New Year holiday in the right fashion. Call 814-536-4625, or visit https://www.ticketmaster.com/johnstown-tomahawks-tickets/artist/1760594 to claim your seats.
Happy Holidays, and Lets Go Hawks!!