Eric Carreras’ goal with 7 minutes left in the third period gave the Rebels a second straight 3 – 2 victory over the Johnstown Tomahawks and a road weekend sweep in Johnstown.
The Rebels win, coupled with New Jersey’s lost to Kenai River in overtime last night, puts them in a first place tie with four games left in the regular season. The win also secures home ice advantage in the first round of the Robertson Cup playoffs, either against Johnstown or Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Saturday night’s game was similar to Friday night’s with both teams grinding it out. This time, however, the Rebels struck first blood. With 8:46 left in the first period, Brennan Kapcheck passed the puck down low to Ryan Cusin. Cusin found Dom Garcia to the left of Tomahawks goalie Andrew Lindgren. Garcia took a wrist shot that beat Lindgren far side giving the Rebels a 1 – 0 lead.
The lead lasted only a minute. With Johnstown pressuring the Rebels zone, Luke Lynch passed it to Casey Linkenheld in front of the net. Linkenheld passed the puck to Andrew Romano who skated behind the Rebels net, wrapped it around and tucked the puck behind Rebels goalie Darion Hanson tying the game at one.
With time winding down in the first, Frank Spellman carried the puck into the neutral zone. He passed it to Michael Merulla who made some nifty moves into the offensive zone. Merulla made a nice pass to Garcia down by the post who put it behind Linkenheld giving the Rebels the lead going into the first period intermission. It was Garcia’s twelfth goal on the season.
With five minutes into the second period, Johnstown dumped the puck deep into the Rebels zone. As a Rebels defenseman when to skate up the boards, the puck was stripped off his stick by Linkenheld. Linkenheld found a wide open Lynch who buried a shot through Hanson’s five hole tying the game at 2.
With another close game between the two teams winding down in the third period, Kapcheck was called for roughing. Hanson made two big saves to keep the game tied. After killing off Kapcheck’s penalty, Drew Blackmun was called for high sticking putting the Hawks back on the power play. Again, Hanson made two big saves to hold off the Tomahawks.
With 8:59 left in the third, Johnstown’s Filips Buncis was called for cross checking putting the Rebels on the power play. Spellman set up the play and passed the puck to defenseman Jerry Miettuten. Miettuten passed it to Carreras who then beat Lindgren with 7:02 left in the game. Carreras, who prophesized before the game that he would score a goal, put the Rebels up for good and enabled the Rebels to earn a weekend road sweep in Johnstown.
Lindgren had 20 saves on 23 shots while Hanson, who was playing in his sixth straight game, had 18 saves on 20 shots. Click here for the box score.
The two teams will play each other again next weekend but both games will be at IceWorks.