Tomahawks to host surging Jr. Americans in rare Wednesday night contest

Mar. 5—Since New Year's Eve weekend, the Johnstown Tomahawks have been among the North American Hockey League's top teams when playing on home ice, winning nine of 10 games.

The Rochester Jr. Americans have been scorching-hot on the road for more than three months, taking 11 victories in a row.

One of those trends will be in jeopardy Wednesday night, as the East Division fourth-place Tomahawks host the third-place Jr. Americans at 7 p.m. at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial. It will be the first Wednesday home game at the War Memorial this season.

"Rochester has been the best team in the league, it seems, record-wise pretty much since around Christmas time," Johnstown coach Mike Letizia said. "They have a very strong top line and also many other contributing forwards to go along with some very good puck-moving defensemen."

Rochester (30-14-5) is 16-1-2 since Dec. 16 and hasn't lost on the road since Dec. 1.

The Jr. Americans have a trio of 20-goal scorers in Massimo Gentile (26 goals, 37 assists, 63 points), Luca Leighton (23-26-49) and Matteo Disipio (21-46-67).

"You add that to two goaltenders that seem to be playing at the top of their game and you have the quality recipe for success," Letizia said. "We definitely know that we have our hands full with them, but at the same time we also feel that we are capable of providing a high level of play when we have all three of our phases going."

Rochester goaltender Florian Wade has 18 wins.

Johnstown netminders Jacob Osborne (22) and Zack Ferris (six) have combined for 28 wins. Ferris has a pair of shutouts and Osborne has one shutout.

The Tomahawks are 9-1-0 at home since Dec. 30 and 13-4-1 in the past 18 games overall.

Captain Zach Aben and Will Lawrence each have a team-high 18 goals, with Aben posting 46 points and Lawrence 44.

"We enjoy playing at home, and this week is such a big chance for us to take advantage of it," said Letizia, whose team also hosts the sixth-place Northeast Generals Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday (7 p.m.).

"But it's on us to make sure that our game rises to new levels as we are now marching toward the final few games of the regular season," the Tomahawks coach said. "This is the fun time of the year when the games become the juiciest and the stakes are the highest."

The Tomahawks' "magic number" to clinch a postseason berth is 11 points.

The nine-team East Division will have six teams advance to the postseason, with the third through sixth seeds each competing in a best-of-3 play-in series. The third and sixth seeds will meet in a play-in series and the fourth and fifth seeds will compete in the other.

The higher seed will host all of the games in the play-in series.

The play-in winners will advance to the best-of-5 division semifinals.

"The last few weekends have been disappointing because we had come away with splits after winning the first game of the weekend," Letizia said of a home series against Northeast on Feb. 22-23, and a road trip to New Hampshire this past Friday and Saturday.