Victory puts Altoona into semifinal round
EBENSBURG — Tied 4-4 with four minutes left to play in the Laurel Mountain Hockey League quarterfinals, Johnstown went on the power play, looking for the potential game-winner that would end Altoona’s bid for a third consecutive league championship.
The Trojans pressured Altoona for the entire two minutes, but goalie Evan Montgomery made save after save to keep the score tied.
“I just tried to be big in the net. I could feel the momentum growing with each save,” Montgomery said.
Fifty-five seconds after the power play expired, Tyler Umbleby shook a defenseman and scored the game-winner as he was falling down, giving the Mountain Lions a 5-4 win Tuesday at the North Central Rec Center.
“The defenseman was hanging on to me pretty good,” Umbleby said. “I pushed his stick away, made a move on the goalie and scored.”
Johnstown, the sixth and final team in the playoff field, outplayed third-seeded Altoona most of the game, but thanks to Montgomery’s performance between the pipes, the game was tied 1-1 after two periods.
He finished with 27 saves.
“That’s what we talked about between the second and third periods. They were winning all the loose puck battles. They had more energy. They were working harder,” Altoona coach Don Burgmeier said. “They were beating us in every phase of the game other than goaltending. Evan was the star of the game. No doubt about it.”
Johnstown scored two goals in the first 3:29 of the third to open up a 3-1 lead, but the Mountain Lions responded with two goals 45 seconds apart near the eight minute mark to tie the game.
Owen Kravetz got the first, beating Trojans’ goalie Drew Pfeil high to the glove side.
“It was a little rough and kind of deflated us,” Kravetz said of going down 3-1 early in the third period. “We just kept pushing each other on the bench. I got a bounce, took a shot and scored. I saw the far side open and just shot it.”
Parker Cumming tied it moments later with his second goal of the game. He pounced on a Johnstown turnover and beat Pfeil high again for the equalizer.
The Trojans took a 4-3 lead on a Logan Hovanec goal with 5:14 left, but the Mountain Lions answered quickly once again when Brock Vancas scored off an assist from Austin Homan.
It’s the third straight year Altoona has beaten Johnstown in the playoffs. The previous two came in the championship game.
Central Cambria advanced as well with a 5-1 win over Conemaugh Valley prior to the Altoona-Johnstown game.
Brayden Sweeney scored three goals and had one assist. Wade Plowman had a goal and three assists while Nanni Alexander stopped 30-of-31 shots in goal to lead the Red Devils.
Both semifinal games are Thursday at Galactic Ice. Altoona plays State College at 6 p.m. followed by Central Cambria and Hollidaysburg at 8 p.m.
Hollidaysburg and State College finished first and second, respectively, in the regular season standings, earning first-round playoff byes.
SCORE BY PERIODS
Johnstown 0 1 3–4
Altoona 0 1 4–5
SECOND PERIOD: A — Cumming (Reimer), 14:32; J — Mock (Heinlein, Harrison), 11:40; .
THIRD PERIOD: J — Mock (Curtis, Smith), 13:55; J — Smith (unassisted), 11:31; A — Kravetz (Umbleby), 8:44; A — Cumming (Umbleby), 7:59; J — Hovanec (unassisted), 5:14; A — Vancas (Homan), 5:01; A — Umbleby (unassisted), 1:05.
Goalies: Pfeil (J), 33-of-38 shots faced; Montgomery (A), 27-of-31 shots faced.
Records: Johnstown (8-13); Altoona (17-4).