GENEVA, IL – In a game that featured three ties and four lead changes, the Youngstown Phantoms (22-12-4-1, 49 points) were able to hold off the first-place Chicago Steel 4-3 at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Illinois on Friday night. The win moves Youngstown into a tie for third place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
“Playoff-like atmosphere,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “It was intense, hard hitting. In the end, we come out with two points that I think were well deserved.”
Special teams were the story of the first period, leading to three of the five goals between the two teams. Chicago opened the scoring with a power play goal 8:59 into the game. Jack Badini redirected a shot past Phantoms goaltender Ivan Kulbakov (21 saves) for his 18th goal of the season to give Chicago the 1-0 lead.
A set play off an offensive zone faceoff win led to the Phantoms first goal. Curtis Hall won a draw in the left circle, sending the puck behind him to Max Ellis. Ellis ripped a wrist shot that beat Ales Stezka (23 saves) blocker side to tie the game at 1. For Ellis, it was his second goal of the year.
Chicago retook the lead just over two minutes later with another special teams goal. With Mitch Lewandowski in the box, Steel captain Marc Johnstone went on short-handed breakaway and beat Kulbakov through the five-hole for his seventh goal of the year to give Chicago a 2-1 lead at 12:18.
Youngstown’s captain answered back with a special teams goal of his own. With Lewandowski still in the box, Tommy Apap hammered home a rebound for his third goal of the year to tie things up at 2. Marshall Moise scored his first goal as a Phantom, third of the season, at 16:36 to give Youngstown its first lead of the night at 3-2. “Marshall, the past few weeks, he’s really been a driving force for us,” said Patterson. “For a big guy, he’s got a great skill set. No matter who he’s playing with he always seems to generate for us, and I think he played a great game tonight.”
Chicago tied the game just 56 seconds into the second period when Brannon McManus beat Kulbakov with a wrist shot high to the glove side just as a power play had expired for the Steel, knotting things up at 3.
Austin Pooley put the Phantoms back in front at 12:36, redirecting a wrist shot from Ellis past Stezka one second after a power play ended. Pooley’s goal, his 13th of the year, vaulted him past Coale Norris and Nicolas Werbik for the team lead in goal scoring. “(Austin) came here this year, and something he wanted to do was have a little more offense in his game before he went to college, and I think he’s been able to do that,” said Patterson. “(Austin) is great all over the ice. It doesn’t matter if you’re up one, down one, he’s a guy that you’re going to see playing big minutes for us…He’s been a special addition.”
Pooley’s goal proved to be the deciding factor in the game, as neither side was able to score in the third period. Chicago pulled Stezka with 1:58 remaining in regulation, but were unable to find the equalizer and Alex Esposito’s shot from the neutral zone for the empty net hit the left post.
Youngstown and Chicago conclude their two-game weekend set tomorrow night with puck drop scheduled for 8:05pm Eastern from Fox Valley Ice Arena. The game will be available on HockeyTV and the Chicago Steel Broadcast Network on Mix.LR.
By the Numbers
Shots – 27
Saves – 21
Power Play – 1/4
Penalty Kill – 4/5
Goals – Ellis, Apap, Moise, Pooley
Assists – Dockery (2), Ellis, Estes, Hall (2), Petrillo
For all the latest news, follow the Phantoms on Twitter (@YtownPhantoms) and ‘Like’ them on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/YoungstownPhantoms). A full version of the Phantoms 2016-17 season schedule, as well as season tickets and mini-plan packages, is available now by visiting www.YoungstownPhantoms.com. Ticket packages can also be purchased by calling (330) 747-PUCK.
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.
Youngstown Phantoms Hockey - #ItStartsHere