DUBUQUE, IA – Sitting on the precipice of tying the longest scoring streak in USHL Tier-1 history, the Phantoms held Dubuque forward Zach Solow off the scoresheet and sent the game to overtime with an extra attacker goal. Ultimately, the Youngstown Phantoms (19-11-4-1, 43 points) fell 2-1 in overtime to the Dubuque Fighting Saints Friday night at the Mystique Community Ice Center in Dubuque.
“That was a hard-fought game by both sides,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Loved the resiliency of the guys and the fight to the end.”
Dubuque opened the scoring at the 14:51 mark of the first period. With traffic in front of Phantoms netminder Ivan Kulbakov (20 saves), Dubuque defenseman Brendan Bushy floated a wrist shot from the blue line that found its way into the net, giving Dubuque the 1-0 lead. The goal was Bushy’s first in the USHL.
After a scoreless second period, Youngstown had its best chances to score in the third. With Brandon Estes in the box for slashing, Alex Esposito had a shorthanded breakaway from the Dubuque blue line in on the second Dubuque goaltender of the night, Jaxon Castor (26 saves), but Castor was equal to the task. At the conclusion of the penalty kill, the Phantoms had a 2-on-0 break with Austin Pooley and Noah Lalonde in on the rush. Eschewing the pass, Pooley tried making a few dekes and opted for a backhand shot, but he was stopped by Castor as well. “Even though we didn’t score, those breakaways were a huge lift for our bench,” said Patterson.
With 1:11 left, Kulbakov headed to the bench for the extra attacker. 25 seconds later, Youngstown tied the game. Working along the left wing wall, Coale Norris pulled the puck out of a scrum and sent a pass to Alec Mahalak at center point. Mahalak took two strides and blasted a full slapshot that beat Castor, tying the game at 1. It was the second time this year a late goal by Mahalak has sent the Phantoms to overtime (December 8 v Muskegon). “Alec made a great read off of the blue line to find time and space,” said Patterson. “When he shoots the puck his head is always up and he’s looking at that goaltender. He’s very deceptive with his shot, and I had absolutely no doubt that was going in.”
In overtime, Cole Guttman and Jeff Baum ran a give-and-go at the top of the circles. With Dallas Gerads parked right in front of Kulbakov, the Youngstown netminder never saw Baum slide the puck back to Guttman in the left circle. Guttman had plenty of net to shoot at with Kulbakov out of position, and the aim of his one-timer was true to give the Fighting Saints the victory.
After the game, Patterson was asked if he expected another playoff-like atmosphere when these two teams face off again tomorrow night. “I would expect so,” he replied. “Every time we come up here, they’re heated battles.”
Youngstown and Dubuque wrap up their two-game series tomorrow night at the Mystique Community Ice Center with puck drop scheduled for 8:05pm Eastern. The game will be available on HockeyTV and Dubuque’s Super Hits 106.
By the Numbers
Shots – 40
Saves – 20
Power Play – 0/1
Penalty Kill – 3/3
Goals – Mahalak
Assists – Norris, Werbik
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Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 players were chosen in the 2016 NHL Draft and more than 402 players on team rosters this season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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