The Rebels used a balance attack to defeat the visiting Johnstown Tomahawks 3 – 2 for the team’s eighth straight victory. The win gives the Rebels a 40-9-1 record for 81 points with ten games remaining in the regular season. They are thirteen points ahead of second place Johnstown. The Rebels also possess the NAHL’s best record.
It was a typical tight checking game between the East Division’s two top teams. Unlike the previous night where the Rebels were held scoreless for almost two periods of play, they would get on the board with five minutes and six seconds into the opening period.
Dustin Manz brought the puck up the near side boards and head manned it to Peter Zhong. Zhong dumped the puck deep inside the Johnstown zone where it went behind the visitor’s net as a three-on-three scrum pursued. The puck came out to the near side corner where it was picked up by Manz who passed it back to the point to Justin Smith. The Rebels’ defenseman took a slapshot that was redirected by Auggie Moore in the slot passed Tomahawks goalie Drew Hotte to give the Rebels a 1 – 0 lead. It was the fifth goal on the season for the Edina, MN native.
Ten minutes later the Rebels would double their lead. Upon the conclusion of the media time out, Drew Blackmun won the ensuing draw. The puck came out to Dom Garcia who passed it back to Michael Underwood at the point. Underwood passed it over to his left to Ryan Solomon. Solomon took a shot that was deflected belt high by Blackmun that went passed Hotte for his sixteenth goal on the season.
Down 2 – 0 with three minutes remaining in the second period, Johnstown would cut the Rebels lead in half. First, Aston defenseman Gvido Jansons went to the penalty box at the 15:42 mark for high sticking putting the Tomahawks on the power play. As time winding down with the extra attacker, Johnstown forward Hayden Rowan had the puck at the bottom of the far side faceoff circle inside the Rebels zone. He passed it across to Donovan Ott on the other side of the faceoff circle. Ott would send the puck back to Filips Buncis at the point. Buncis took a wrist shot that beat Rebels goalie Mareks Mitens glove side through a screen to make it a 2 – 1 game.
Fourteen seconds later the Rebels would regain their two goal lead. After the faceoff the puck went back into the Rebels zone, Solomon would send a bounce pass off the far side boards up to Ryan Patrick. Patrick would carry the puck to the faceoff circle. He passed the puck back to a trailing Solomon who took a wrist shot that beat Hotte high glove side to make it a 3 – 1 game with 2:46 remaining in the middle period. It was the tenth goal on the season for the Northeastern University commit.
As time was winding down in the third period, Johnstown defenseman Andy Iehle had the puck behind his net. The former Jr. Flyer skated in front of his net and dumped the puck in the neutral zone. Justin Smith went to field the puck but it bounced off of his shin pad to Buncis. Buncis entered the Rebels zone along the far side boards. He took a wrist shot at the top of the faceoff circle that beat Mitens short side to make it 3 – 2 with 3:24 left in the game.
Hotte had 24 saves on 27 shots while Mitens turned aside 19 of 21 shots. Click here for the box score.
Despite having a thirteen point lead on the second place Tomahawks with ten games remaining in the season, the Rebels have a very tough schedule ahead of them. They will be on the road for eight of those games including four against Johnstown and three against New Jersey, who is only six points behind the Tomahawks. Johnstown and the Titans begin a three game series next weekend in New Jersey.
The Rebels will complete a five game home stand next Friday night against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights on Team Photo giveaway night. It will be the last meeting of the regular season between the two teams.