Jensen Zerban’s goal with 6:58 remaining in the third period gave the Rebels a thrilling 1 – 0 victory over the visiting Johnstown Tomahawks. The win also gave Rebels goaltender Mareks Mitens his eleventh shutout on the season which sets a new North American Hockey League record for most shutouts on the season.
The calendar said it was February 10 but it sure felt like mid to late April. The Tomahawks entered this weekend series only four points behind the Rebels but had two games in hand. Plus, Johnstown had won eight of its last ten games while the Rebels have struggled lately.
This game was playoff hockey at its finest. It was up and down hockey with bone jarring hits that electrified the crowd. As always in playoff hockey, it comes down to goaltending. And Mitens and his Johnstown counterpart Drew Hotte were spectacular between the pipes, giving their respective team a chance to win the game. The truth is it is shame one team had to lose because these two teams laid it all out on the line.
This was an extremely fast paced game; it even lasted only two hours, and each team only was assessed three penalties throughout the game but one penalty changed its outcome.
With 8:42 remaining in the third period Johnstown’s Evan Somoza was called for interference on Dom Garcia to put the Rebels on the power play. As time was winding down with the extra attacker, Brennan Kapcheck brought the puck out of his own zone and skated towards center ice. He passed the puck to his left to Jensen Zerban who head man the puck to Aaron Maguyon. As Maguyon entered the Tomahawks zone, he made a cut back play to set up. He found Kapcheck at the top of the point. Kapcheck made a pass down low to Zerban who was positioned to the right of Hotte’s blocker side. Zerban took the pass and swiped the puck around a fallen Hotte for the only goal of the game with 6:58 left in the final period. It was Zerban’s sixth goal on the season.
Hotte stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced while Mitens turned aside all 18. Mitens’ eleventh shutout on the season sets a new North American Hockey League record for most shutouts in a season surpassing current University of Connecticut goalie Robby Nichols when he had ten with the Wenatchee Wild during the 2011-12 season. It was the Rebels fourteenth on the season which ties a NAHL record for most shutouts by a team during the season.
The win improves the Rebels record to 33-9-1 for 67 points, five more than second place Johnstown. The two teams will be back at it tonight at 7pm at IceWorks. Click here for the box score.