LEWISTON – The Maine Nordiques played a nearly flawless first 40 minutes, but then the wheels fell off in the third period.

The Johnstown Tomahawks scored four unanswered goals in the third period to come away with a 5-4 victory in front of 1,301 fans at the Nordiques’ North American Hockey League home opener at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Friday.

“Credit to Johnstown, I think they came out, they showed why they were last year’s (East) division champions, they are a veteran hockey club and they pushed real hard,” Maine Nordiques coach Nolan Howe said. “They came out and they were heavy and we stopped skating a little bit. For us, if we aren’t skating to our maximum of our capabilities, teams are going to get the upper edge on us.”

The third period started well for Maine as it went on the power play 54 seconds into the period, but it was the Tomahawks who took advantage. Quinn Warmuth found a wide-open Tristan Poissant in the neutral zone for a shorthanded breakaway goal just past the two minute mark of the period to cut the deficit to 4-2.

“It’s a situation where it could go one way and we let it get to us, but we actually turned it into a positive,” Johnstown coach Mike Letizia said. “Obviously, the shorthanded goal was huge and got the comeback started.”

Howe put the blame on himself for the third period.

“Our jobs as coaches is to motivate these young men, put them in a position to be successful. (Letizia) did a better job in the third period, that’s the bottom line,” Howe said. “He got his team going and they scored a big goal to start the period. I certainly have to be better. It starts with me and tomorrow we are going to try to do that.”

Johnstown rode the momentum as Max Kouznetsov finished off a nice 2-on-1 for his second goal of the game off a helper from Sean Bauchens, who also had an assist on Kouznetsov’s first goal. During the next shift, Carson Gallagher tied the game for Johnstown.

Gallagher ripped home the game-winner with 1:51 remaining to play on the power play.

“(Bennett) Stockdale had great patience and I was lucky enough to get open and find a hole,” Gallagher said.

The Tomahawks were 1-for-5 on the man advantage, while the Nordiques went 1-for-4.

Johnstown opened the scoring in the first period. Max Kouznetsov found the back of the net when the puck bounced back to him after Nordiques goalie Connor Androlewicz made the initial save.

The lead only lasted 72 seconds, though, as Lewiston native Alex Rivet tied the game for Maine near the midway point of the first.

“We know what Alex brings to the table for us. I was happy, he had a great week of practice, he really bought in hard this week and he was rewarded in the game,” Howe said. “His line had two goals 5-on-5, they did a nice job there for us.”

With just under a minute remaining in the first period, Maine went on the man advantage after Tomahawks defenseman Malik Alishlalov went off for interference. Johnstown also lost defensemen Chris Trouba, who went down holding his left knee when Alishlalov’s penalty was committed.

The Nordiques capitalized. Trent Grimshaw set himself up to the left of the crease and got enough stick on the puck to redirect a Noah Kane pass into the net with 46 seconds remaining in the first.

After a slow start to the second period for the Nordiques, things opened up in the second half of the frame.

Isaiah Fox scored one second after a power play expired on a scramble in front of the Tomahawks’ net to give Maine a 3-1 lead. Twenty-five seconds after Fox’s goal, Stefan Owens stretched the Nordiques’ lead to 4-1.

Maine had to withstand a late push in the period, but Androlewicz, a University of Maine commit, stopped all 13 shots he faced in the middle frame. He also got a little help from a goalie’s best friend as Johnstown rang the cross bar as time was expiring in the period.

Androlewciz made 38 saves in the game, while Blaine Moore stopped 28 for the Tomahawks.

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