On-Ice Focus Issues

Rebels Fall To Division-Leading Johnstown, 3-2

The Jamestown Rebels’ Antonio Venuto celebrates the first goal of Wednesday’s North American Hockey League game at Northwest Arena. The assist came from Noah Finstrom, but the Rebels lost to Johnstown, 3-2. P-J photos by Chad Ecklof

With two scoring plays in the second period of Wednesday night’s North American Hockey League contest between the Jamestown Rebels and Johnstown Tomahawks at Northwest Arena, the hosts had their night just about summed up.

Unfortunately both goals were tallied by the East Division-leading Tomahawks (15-4).

Near the midpoint of the second, Jamestown goaltender Ryan Keane took a short trip behind his net to cut off a dump-in. Facing pressure from both sides, the Rebels netminder had his pass up the wall picked up by Joe Kile, who gave a quick dish into the slot where Carson Briere finished on an empty net to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. Five minutes later, Jamestown got caught on a defensive pinch, giving up a two-on-one-chance to Samuel Solensky.

The Slovakian forward double-clutched his crossing pass, opting for a shot underneath the pad of Keane to lead the Tomahawks to a 3-2 victory over the Rebels (8-7-1-1).

The hosts gave up all three of their goals in the second period after beginning the night with strong play in the first, while being unable to even the game despite a flurry of chances with their goaltender on the bench in the closing minute.

Jamestown’s Nick Stuckless takes a shot on goal.

“Goalies don’t handle pucks well. Maybe a few do in the world, but at this level they don’t,” said Jamestown head coach Joe Coombs. “We have talked about it since the day we walked through the door. Our goalie and (defense) need to communicate and they didn’t do it. There’s the winning goal and we give up a two-on-one on another play that, quite frankly, just blows my mind.”

While Keane suffered an unusual miscue on the second goal of the night from the Tomahawks, he rebounded in the moments after that mistake, shutting down Mitchell Hale on a breakaway with a blocker save on his way to 17 stops.

“I think he is one of the top goalies in the league. I firmly believe that. He has proven that through the course of the last regular season. He has been solid, he gives us a chance to win,” Coombs said of Keane. “You knew he was going to make the breakaway save after he gave the puck away for the goal. He knows better.”

The Rebels have suffered from a roller-coaster ride of consistency issues over the course of this season, and Wednesday night was more of the same after the hosts began the evening on the war path, but failed to maintain that pace.

Johnstown struggled to produce any offensive chances in the opening five minutes, while Lukas Uhler and Brayden Richards got started out with scoring chances for the Rebels.

Jamestown also killed off a power play early after Nick Petruolo was booked for tripping, while Nick Stuckless picked up a scoring opportunity after deking his way into the offensive zone for a shot on Carter McPhail. Moments after that chance, the Rebels got on the board thanks to some more slick stickhandling — this time from Noah Finstrom.

Taking a pass from Alex Roy on the backend, Finstrom turned his defender inside out on a rush towards the slot, eventually dishing off a feed to his left where Antonio Venuto picked up his second goal of the year on a high finish.

“That was really good,” said Coombs said of Finstrom. “Two of his last four (games) have been probably two of his best all year. It’s nice to see him coming on.”

Venuto returned the favor to Finstrom in the opening minute of the third period. The pair hooked up on an odd-man rush, with Finstrom notching the finish on a shot between the legs of McPhail.

Johnstown picked up the game-tying goal at 2:08 of the second period on the power play, when Briere collected his 14th assist of the season with a feed into the slot that was finished off by Cameron Hebert.

After showing flashes of the play needed to pick up a win against the best team in the division, Wednesday night’s loss leaves Coombs looking for more focus from his players.

“You expect it early when you have a young team, but from where we are at now we’re at that stage of 15, 20 games there is boundary there,” he said. “Our ability as a whole to maintain focus is absolutely hindering our process.”

The Northeast Generals will visit Northwest Arena for a pair of 7:05 p.m. games on Friday and Saturday.