By Patrick Garriepy
Following a weekend off from game action, the Northeast Generals returned to the ice this past weekend in a 3-game road series against the Johnstown Tomahawks. The matchup between the two teams was the first since last season’s contentious first-round playoff series, which saw the Generals fall in a winner-take-all game 5. This time around, both teams once again engaged in hard-played, tight battles.
Game 1 on Friday night saw the Generals enter just behind the Tomahawks in the standings and entering the contest with back-to-back wins. Johnstown entered the contest as winners in two of their previous three. Unlike many previous games for Northeast, the Gens jumped out to a quick start thanks to an early tally of the stick of Joseph Mancuso at 1:44 of the first. Mancuso was able to track down a loose puck at the side of the net in a net mouth scramble for his 6th goal of the season. Despite the good start and a 1-0 lead after one period, Johnstown would rebound in the second.
With almost two minutes gone in the second, Carson Gallagher was able to corral the puck from beneath the goal line and make a power move to the front of the net, where he would stuff home his tenth of the season. Just a few minutes later, it was Spencer DenBeste getting one past Generals starting goaltender Joey Stanizzi and giving the ‘Hawks their first lead of the weekend. The lead would last for about 13 minutes, as Northeast assistant captain Dylan Schuett was able to fire home a one-timer from Thad Marcola, giving him his first of the season.
Both Stanizzi and Johnstown goaltender David Tomeo would hold down the fort well into the final period when the tie was broken once and for all by Spencer Denbeste. With the puck dumped into the offensive zone corner, Gens defenseman Kyle Gierman was unable to clear the puck, leading to a quick pass and strike by the Tomahawks. The goal would be all Johnstown would need in the third, as they held on for the 3-2 win.
Coming off a loss the night prior in which he stopped 37 shots, Joey Stanizzi would return to the net for game 2, hoping to provide a spark for his team. The rookie goaltender would go on to give one of his strongest performances of the season, holding Johnstown scoreless until there was only a handful of seconds remaining. The Generals, fueled by goals from Trevor Smith (6), Ethan Destefani (6) and Joseph Mancuso (7), would shut down the Tomahawks offense en route to a 3-1 victory.
Stanizzi stopped 25 of 26 shots for the victory, while Johnstown counterpart Alex Tracy stopped 27 shots in defeat. With both teams taking a win apiece in games one and two, it would come down to a Sunday rubber-match to determine the winner of the weekend series.
Game 3 would see a return to the net for Johnstown goaltender David Tomeo, while Joey Stanizzi would be the surprise starter for Northeast for the third consecutive game. The game would be scoreless throughout the majority of the first, but Gens’ rookie defenseman Jared Lambright would fire a puck through a screen that would beat Tomeo with a screened shot from the point. The goal was Lambright’s second of the year and would give the Generals a 1-0 lead that they would take into period two.
Much like the first period, the second mostly consisted of solid goaltending, as the 1-0 lead would last well into the frame. It wasn’t until 17:44 of the period where Johnstown would finally get one past Stanizzi, as Andrew Murphy was able to tally his first goal of the season, tying the score up at one goal apiece. With little time remaining in the second, it seemed as if the teams would head into the third deadlocked 1-1. The scoring wasn’t quite finished yet, as with under a minute to go, ‘Hawks forward Max Kouznetsov would fire home a powerplay goal past Stanizzi, putting Johnstown on top for the first time in game 3. It lasted all of 25 seconds when Thad Marcola powered his way to the net front and popped home the equalizer, his first NAHL goal.
WIth nearly 13 minutes gone in the final period, it would be Johnstown retaking the lead on the strength of Jesse Lycan’s third of the season. Once again, however, the lead only lasted so long thanks to a blueline slapshot off the stick of General’s defenseman Cam Gaudette. Gaudette’s tally stood up until 17:58 of the final period when the Generals found themselves pinned in their defensive zone. Matthew Doyle was able to fire a puck on Stanizzi, only to have the rebound end up on teammate Christian Gorscak’s stick. Gorscak was able to easily stuff home the eventual game-winner, giving Johnstown the series win for the weekend.
David Tomeo stopped 24/28 in the victory for Johnstown, while Joey Stanizzi recorded 34 saves on 38 shots for Northeast. The Generals will return home this upcoming weekend for two games on November 1st and 2nd, as they welcome the Kenai River Brown Bears to the New England Sports Village.