Dom Garcia’s goal with twenty four seconds left in the game propelled the Rebels to a 4 – 3 thrilling victory over the visiting Johnstown Tomahawks. The win gave the Rebels a 14 – 2 record on the season with 28 points, five more than the Tomahawks.
It was the first of two games to be played between the NAHL’s two top teams. It was up and down play throughout. The Rebels got on the board first when Gianluca Esteves head man the puck out of his zone to Aaron Maguyon. Maguyon brought the puck up the near side boards into the Tomahawks zone. As he cut towards the center of the ice he passed it to his left to Evgeny Yakovlev. Yakovlev passed it back to Maguyon who skated towards the net. Maguyon took a shot that Johnstown goalie Drew Hotte made a right pad kick save but it was a deep rebound that went to Yakovlev who was following up on the play and put it behind Hotte to give the Rebels a 1 – 0 lead with 7:03 left in the first period.
Yakovlev would be involved with another goal but this time on the wrong side. With 2:40 left in the first, Yakovlev took a roughing penalty putting the Tomahawks on power play. Twelve seconds later Johnstown would tie the game. Dalton Hunter won the draw deep in the Rebels zone. The puck went back to the point to Donovan Ott. Ott passed the puck to his left to Filips Buncis who took a shot that beat Rebels goalie Mareks Mitens short side to tie the game at one.
Although the Rebels didn’t dominate the first period, they controlled it and the same play continued in the second. Jensen Zerban brought the puck into the Tomahawks zone and made a nice pass into the high slot to Carter Woolley. Woolley took a shot that was saved by Hotte but another deep rebound came out to Peter Zhong who one timed it to put the Rebels up 2 – 1 with 12:04 left in the middle period. It was Zhong’s second goal on the season.
Almost two minutes later the Rebels would go up two goals. Ott was called for checking from behind with eleven minutes left in the second putting the Rebels on the power play. After the Rebels won the draw deep inside the Tomahawks zone, the puck went back to Brennan Kapcheck. Kapcheck passed the puck to his left to Andrew Bellant while Kapcheck was cutting towards the net. Bellant made a beautiful cross-ice pass to Kapcheck who put it behind Hotte for a Rebels 3 – 1 lead.
Despite being down two, Johnstown did not give up. The odds were in their favor with the dreaded two goal lead. Kolby Vegara was called for holding with 5:24 left in the middle stanza putting Johnstown on another power play. Former Jr. Flyer Andy Iehle received the puck back at the near side point. He passed it to his right to Adam Pilewicz. Pilewicz took a shot that beat Mitens through a screen to cut the Tomahawks deficit by one.
With the Rebels going into the final period leading 3 – 2 they became a little sloppy in their zone. After Zak Galambros intercepted a Rebels pass he sent a pass to Ott on his left side. Ott took a shot that beat Mitens short side to tie the game with 8:10 into the third.
As time was winding down and fans were thinking that the game was going into overtime, Garcia had other plans. Kapcheck brought the puck out of the Rebels zone and passed it to Garcia. The Rebels captain skated with puck into Johnstown’s zone. He was moving from his right to his left. As he cut across the goal mouth, Hotte tried to poke check the puck. Hotte went down but Garcia still had control of the puck and put it into an open net with twenty four seconds left in the game, giving the home team a 4 – 3 win.
Mitens had 20 saves on 23 shots while Hotte stopped 29 of 33 shots. Click here for the box score.
The two teams are back at it tonight at 7pm. Immediately following tonight’s game the Rebels will be auctioning off their jerseys with proceeds going to the Pennies in Action Fund.