BLOOMINGTON, IL – For the fourth time in six games, 60 minutes of hockey was not enough for the Youngstown Phantoms (20-12-4-1, 45 points) and their opponent to determine a winner. Youngstown would require a 10-round shootout to finally put away the Bloomington Thunder on Sunday evening at US Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington by a final score of 3-2. Youngstown won the shootout 1-0. The Phantoms never led in the game and twice overcame one-goal deficits to force overtime and the shootout.
“The resiliency of the guys really showed through,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Extremely proud of the effort from the penalty kill there at the end.”
Bloomington opened the scoring with a power play goal at 15:50 of the first period. Thunder defenseman Zach Mirageas fired a shot from just left of center point that was wide of the net. The puck took a hard bounce off the end wall right to Tarek Baker at the right post. Bloomington’s captain deposited the puck in the back of the net for his 11th goal of the year to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead.
A pair of Austin Pooley goals and another Bloomington tally had things all tied up after 40 minutes. Pooley initially tied the game at 3:11 of the second period, redirecting Steve Ruggiero shot past Gabriel Mollot-Hill (28 saves) making it 1-1. The Thunder retook the lead at 5:27, Ethan Somoza one-timed a puck over Ivan Kulbakov (27 saves) from the edge of the crease making it 2-1 Bloomington.
Pooley’s second goal of the period came from a nice play by Eric Esposito. Blocking a shot high in his own end, Esposito carried the puck down ice into the Bloomington zone. Pulling up just inside the blue line, Esposito floated an area pass ahead that Pooley caught up to, collected, and wristed past Mollot-Hill on the short side at 13:53 to knot things back up. The goals gave Pooley 16 points on the year, a new career high for him. “This was Austin’s 200th USHL game,” said Patterson. “Sam Solensky was playing his first. I was joking with Austin before the game to make this one memorable, and he certainly did that.”
The third period yielded no scoring, and the game would head to overtime. In overtime, Youngstown was called for having too many men on the ice, and the Phantoms were forced to kill off a 4-on-3 power play for Bloomington. Bloomington had several good looks at the net, but Kulbakov stopped every piece of vulcanized-rubber sent his way, and the Phantoms were able to kill off the penalty and force a shootout.
In the shootout, the first nine shooters for each team were unsuccessful. In the top of the 10th round, Phantoms defenseman Dominic Dockery beat Mollot-Hill with a wrist shot from the hashmarks to give Youngstown a 1-0 lead. “The message to ‘Doc’ was ‘Hey, let’s just go right down the pipe and rip one,’ and he did exactly that,” said Patterson. In the bottom of the 10th, the game was on the stick of Bloomington forward Cameron Burke, but his wrist shot was gloved by Kulbakov to give the Phantoms the victory.
Youngstown returns to the Covelli Centre for a two-game series against Western Conference-foe the Sioux Falls Stampede on Thursday and Friday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm each night and broadcasts will be available on YPHR and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 30
Saves – 27
Power Play – 0/5
Penalty Kill – 5/6
Goals – Pooley (2)
Assists – E. Esposito, Gresock, Ruggiero
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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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