Andrew Bellant’s 25th goal on the season gave the Rebels a 3 – 2 road victory over the Johnstown Tomahawks. The win gave the first place Rebels a weekend split against the second place Tomahawks, and the win also gave the Rebels 85 points on the season (eleven up on Johnstown) and reduced their magic number to clinch their second straight regular season East Division championship to two.
It was another fast paced game. It was another 3 – 2 score (the fifth time out of ten games this season a contest ended 3 – 2), and it was the ninth game out of ten that the margin of victory was decided by one goal. Welcome to the Aston Rebels and Johnstown Tomahawks 2016-17 season.
The Rebels got on the board first from an unlikely source. After receiving a touch pass from Dustin Manz at center ice, Ryan Patrick brought the puck into the Tomahawks’ zone. He made a cut-back move and passed the puck down low into the near side corner to Jensen Zerban. Zerban battled a Johnstown defender for the puck as it squirted out to Auggie Moore. Moore looked up and sent a centering pass to Andrew Noel who ripped a shot top shelf pass Tomahawks’ goalie Drew Hotte to give the Rebels a 1 – 0 lead at 7:31 into the first period. It was Noel’s second goal of the season.
After Manz and Johnstown’s Andy Iehle were called for coincidental penalties, the puck went into the Rebels zone after the ensuing faceoff. Gvido Jansons brought the puck up the near side boards and passed it to Drew Blackmun who was skating at center ice into the Tomahawks’ zone. As Blackmun entered the offensive zone, he passed the puck to his left to Dom Garcia. Garcia skated to the top of the near side faceoff circle and took a wrist shot that handcuffed Hotte as the puck went behind him and into the net to give the Rebels a 2 – 0 lead almost eight minutes into the second period. It was Garcia’s thirteenth goal on the season.
Ah … the dreaded two goal lead.
The Tomahawks would cut the Rebels deficit in half with 5:50 remaining in the second. Johnstown’s Edward Hirka had the puck at his own far side faceoff circle and found a streaking Nick Bruce at center ice. Bruce got pass the Rebels defense and walked in all alone on Rebels goalie Jack Leavy. Bruce made a deke and put the puck passed a sprawling Leavy for his twentieth goal on the season.
The Tomahawks would tie it at two just eight seconds into the final period. After Bruce won the opening draw the puck went to Donovan Ott who skated into the Rebels zone. Ott passed the puck behind the Rebels net to Dalton Hunter. Hunter passed the puck back to Ott who passed to Bruce in the slot and Bruce put the puck passed Leavy to make it a 2 – 2 game. It was Bruce’s second goal of the game and third on the weekend.
The Rebels would reclaim the lead a minute and seventeen seconds later.
Justin Smith sent the puck into the Tomahawks zone where it was picked up by a Johnstown defender at the top of the far side faceoff circle. As the Tomahawks’ defender tried to pass the puck up to a forward, it was intercepted by Patrick at the boards. Patrick passed it to Bellant in the high slot and Bellant took a wrist shot that beat Hotte glove side to give the Rebels a 3 – 2 lead. It would be the eventual game winner and Bellant’s sixth game winning goal on the season.
Leavy had to make some key saves in the third to keep Johnstown from tying the game. He finished with fifteen saves while Hotte made thirty one saves. Click here for the box score.
The Rebels can clinch the East Division next weekend if they sweep the Northeast Generals or if they win one game and Johnstown loses a game against the New Jersey Titans.
Photo Credit: The Rebels again would like to sincerely thank Phil Andraychak for providing photos from last night’s game. During the week all of Phil’s outstanding photos taken during this weekend will be posted on the Rebels’ Facebook page. Thank you again Phil!