A few days ago, the Rebels hosted the Johnstown Tomahawks. It was a battle between first and second place in the East Division. Going into the weekend the Tomahawks were on a 17-game win streak trying to get to the record at 24 set last year by Fairbanks. Whereas the Rebels were looking to extend their point streak to seven. Also, the Rebels were just one point ahead of the Titans, so they needed to play their best hockey of the season if they wanted to stay in the top two.
On Friday, the Tomahawks started Carter McPhail. While he is Johnstown’s best net-minder posting the fourth best goals-against-average in the league with a 1.98. His only blemish on his record came from the Rebels back on Oct. 5th when they won 4–1. Since then he has won 12 straight starts and was looking to get revenge on the Rebels once the puck was dropped. Opposite of him was Ryan Keane who has been stellar for the Rebels lately riding three-straight wins. He is also two spots behind McPhail for goals-against-average with a 2.06. Not only do the Tomahawks have some great goaltending but they also are the best power-play team in the league, so staying out of the box over the weekend was key for the Rebels if they wanted to win. Friday marked the first ever Teddy Bear Toss for the Rebels and they did not expect it to come so early. As just 1:36 into the hockey game Alex Frye scored unleashing hundreds of stuffed animals in front of a record-setting attendance of 1,153. The Tomahawks would answer though a little later right after they got done killing a penalty. Towards the end of the first period Jake Felker scored to give his team the lead again and the score would remain 2-1 after the first 20 minutes of play. Jake Felker wasted no time picking up where he left off in the first as he scored his second goal of the game just :32 seconds into the middle period. The Rebels held that lead until there was almost 13 minutes left in the third, then Sam Anzai scored to put the Rebels up by three. The Tomahawks were not able to put up any more goals as the final horn sounded, ending their remarkable win streak at 17. The Rebels extended their point-streak to seven games and evened the season series at 2–2. Ryan Keane also got his fourth straight win as a starter and what is even more impressive is that even though the Tomahawks had the best power play in the league, they went 0/5 on the man-advantage. That has not happened to them since they played New Jersey back on Nov. 16th when they went 0/6. With Alex Frye scoring on Friday he extended his point streak to nine games (9G, 6A).
The next night, the Rebels were riding a huge high as they looked to get their first sweep over the best team in the league. Both teams made changes to their goalies as it was Cooper Lukenda for the Tomahawks and Noah West for the Rebels. Lukenda came in with a record of 6–1 and on a five-game winning streak. Whereas Noah West had not lost in regulation since Oct. 13th, putting him in 13th overall for GAA with 2.47. Antonio Venuto got things going early for the Rebels as not even five minutes into the game he scored to put them up 1–0. It was not until past the half-way point in the first when Johnstown would find the back of the net to tie things up. The score would remain 1–1 until there was about 12 minutes left in the second when Alex Roy scored on a slap shot from the right point on the power play to give the Rebels the lead once again. That was also his first NAHL goal! In the late stages of the middle period the Tomahawks were able to tie the game again as they recorded their first power-play goal of the weekend. The score would remain tied 2–2 after 40 minutes of play. Although it did not stay tied for long as only a minute had passed in the third period when Johnstown scored to give them their first lead of the weekend. The Rebels tried everything they could to answer, even pulling West towards the end of the game to give them the extra attacker. Unfortunately, it would not be successful as the score read 3-2 Tomahawks after 60 minutes.
The Tomahawks were back in the win column and the Rebels received their first regulation loss since Nov. 10th. Johnstown improves to 25-5 (50PTS), whereas the Rebels are now 15-9-2-1 (33PTS). With the Rebels not gaining three or four points over the weekend they were in jeopardy of falling back down to third place had New Jersey swept Maryland. Luckily for the Rebels, the Black Bears won on Sunday by a final of 4–2. With New Jersey losing their record is now 16-12 (32PTS) and they still sit one point behind Jamestown. The Rebels are heading to Scranton, PA this weekend to face the Knights. The Rebels play Wilkes-Barre six out of their next eight games and they currently lead the season series 4–0, so there is a lot of confidence heading into this weekend to try and get a third sweep over the Knights. For ticket information call 716-484-2624.
Tonight, your Rebels will go head-to-head against the Johnstown Tomahawks. The Tomahawks are riding a seven-game winning streak and do not seem to be slowing down. During their extensive win streak, they have put up 33GF and have only allowed 16GA. These two teams have only met twice this season back on October 5th and 6th, when they split the weekend and the Rebels took the first game which was Johnstown’s home opener. Since then the Tomahawks have only lost one game and that was to Maryland on October 12th by a score of 3-2. The net-minder that played in that game is no longer with the Tomahawks and after that game is when their streak began. Now the Rebels sitting in third place must play the best team in the league.
While these two teams won’t face each other again until December 7th there is still a lot on the line for both teams. For the Rebels it is mainly about getting back on a winning streak themselves, as their three-game winning streak was snapped after losing in overtime to the Black Bears this past Saturday. Since this is the only game being played tonight in the league, the Rebels will not fall any spots in the division if they lose but if they win, they will be within four points of second place New Jersey. A win tonight will also give the Rebels confidence going into their homes games this weekend against the Northeast Generals who currently sit in fifth place in the East.
As for the Tomahawks they currently have the longest winning streak in the league and are not looking to let that end tonight. A big reason to their success is that their top five players have a combined 106 points (39G, 67A). To put that in perspective the Rebels top five players have a combined 44 points (21G, 23A). Not only have their sticks been on fire but so has their net-minding. Their top goalie Carter McPhail is the third best goalie in the league and his only loss is to the Rebels back on October 5th, since then he won four games and lost zero. He has only given up seven goals and has made a total of 133 saves in just those four games. The other goalie for Tomahawks is Cooper Lukenda who has not lost a start since September 20th. In his past three starts he is 3-0 allowing only nine goals and totaling for 103 saves.
Regardless of who the Tomahawks put in-between the pipes the Rebels will have to put up a lot of shots if they want to get the full two points. The Rebels have beat this team before but when they did the Tomahawks were not on a seven-game winning streak. While this is a crucial game tonight for the Rebels in hopes of climbing up the East Division ladder they do not want to get too banged up as the Northeast Generals are coming to Jamestown, NY this weekend. With a possible six points on the line for the Rebels it is important they come out strong tonight and get the early lead and do not look back. As the Tomahawks are undefeated when leading after the first and second period which only makes it that more important for the Rebels to score first tonight.
The visiting Aston Rebels defeated the Johnstown Tomahawks last night 2 – 0 to conclude the 2016-17 regular season. The victory gave the Rebels 46 wins on the season, a 31% increase from the prior year for a team that went to the NAHL’s semi-finals.
The Rebels sat seven players plus their two regular goalies due to injuries. Head coach Joe Coombs rolled three lines and needed to play with two emergency goalies: Carter McPhail and Brooks DiMarino.
After a scoreless first period Aaron Maguyon put the Rebels on the board first with the eventual game winner. Michael Underwood dumped the puck deep inside the Tomahawks zone so the Rebels could make a line change. As a Johnstown defender retrieved the puck and sent a bounce pass off the boards it was intercepted right at the far side blueline by Carson Briere. Briere sent a feather pass up to Maguyon who went around a Tomahawks’ defenseman and took a shot that beat Vinnie Purpura short side to make it a 1 – 0 just 2:03 into the second period.
Briere, who had three points on the weekend, would play a prominent role in the Rebels second goal. After another block shot by a Rebels defenseman, the puck came out to Briere at his own nearside faceoff circle. Briere carried the puck all that way in the Johnstown zone and made a nifty pass from Purpura’s right to Adam Peck in the slot who redirected the puck passed Purpura for his sixth goal on the season with 5:03 remaining in the third period to make a 2 – 0 game.
The Rebels used stifling defense in front of McPhail to record the team’s seventeenth shutout on the season. McPhail turned aside all 19 shots he faced while Purpura stopped 23 of 25 shots. Click here for the box score.
The real season begins on Friday night when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knight visit IceWorks to begin a best of five, divisional semi-final series against the Rebels.
Photo Credit: The Rebels cannot thank Phil Andraychak enough for the great photos he has provided throughout the season while the Rebels are in Johnstown. Thank you Phil!