BLOOMINGTON, IL – In a game that was much different than the final score might indicate, the Youngstown Phantoms downed the Bloomington Thunder 5-1 on Friday night at US Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington. With the win, Youngstown extended their winning streak to four and clinched the season series against their Eastern Conference rival four games to two.
“It was an interesting game,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “I don’t know if the score was completely indicative of the play, but I’m extremely pleased to be jumping on the bus with four points here.”
In a wild first period that featured two goals, a malfunctioning goal light, a fight, and 81 penalty minutes between the two teams, Youngstown came out with a 2-0 lead. Max Ellis opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the year at 8:51, and Brandon Estes scored his first career USHL goal at 12:37. Estes’ shot from the right point hit the skates of two different Bloomington defenders before caroming past Thunder goaltender Gabriel Mollot-Hill (14 saves). “Brandon has a great offensive tool box,” said Patterson. “It’s shocking to say he got his first one tonight, but he’s been around a lot of goals. He’s a tremendous player.”
Things got chippy late in the period, marked by six players receiving misconduct penalties and one player from Bloomington receiving a match penalty. Alex Esposito and Marko Reifenberger dropped their gloves at 16:37. Chase Gresock and Zach Mirageas received misconduct penalties for a scrap after Mirageas tripped Phantoms captain Tommy Apap at 17:25. Mirageas received a match penalty in that altercation for removing Gresock’s helmet, ending his night. Wrapping up the penalties, Curtis Hall and Simon Butala received misconducts for a post-whistle altercation at 17:39. The teams combined for 107 penalty minutes, with Youngstown receiving five power plays and Bloomington eight. “To kill off eight penalties, even in a game like this, is unacceptable,” said Patterson. “You need to keep that down, but our guys held strong and blocked a lot of shots, and obviously Ivan (Kulbakov) was great in net.”
Evan Wisocky doubled the Phantoms’ lead on his own in the second period. A power play goal at 3:53 and an even-strength goal at 18:35 gave Wisocky seven goals on the year and the Phantoms a 4-0 lead in the game. “Since Christmas, (Evan) has been really good for us,” said Patterson. “Driving plays no matter who he’s with. He had a couple nice ones tonight.”
Nicolas Werbik stretched the Phantoms lead to 5-0 with a power play goal 6:16 into the third, blasting a wrist shot from the high slot past Mollot-Hill. Jake Durflinger broke up Kulbakov’s shutout bid moments later at 6:46, beating Kulbakov over the glove with a slap shot from a set faceoff play, wrapping up the scoring.
The win kept Youngstown alone in third place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference with 55 points, now just one point behind the two teams tied for first, the Chicago Steel and Dubuque Fighting Saints, but those two teams have both played three fewer games than the Phantoms. Youngstown leads the fourth-place Muskegon Lumberjacks by two points, but Muskegon has played two fewer games. Youngstown will travel to the shores of Lake Michigan next Friday night to take on those Lumberjacks as they conclude their five-game road trip. Game time is scheduled for 7:15pm Eastern and broadcasts will be available on HockeyTV and 92.5 Muskegon’s Nash Icon.
By the Numbers
Shots – 20
Saves – 35
Power Play – 2/5
Penalty Kill – 8/8
Goals – Ellis, Estes, Wisocky (2), Werbik
Assists – Apap, Karow, Mahalak (2), Norris (2), Werbik (3)
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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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