YOUNGSTOWN, OH – After last night’s game that only saw the visitors post one goal on the board, Fargo’s high scoring offense was able to gain some traction as they downed the Youngstown Phantoms (27-15-4-1, 59 points) 3-2 on Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
“I don’t know if we really deserved to win that game last night, I thought we were much better tonight, more complete effort,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “You play like that more often than not and you’re going to have two points.”
Youngstown jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, thanks to Alex Esposito. Esposito stole a pass at his own blue line and raced down ice on a breakaway. Entering the Fargo zone, he cut across the net mouth, switch over to his backhand, and beat Ryan Bischel (21 saves) to put the Phantoms on top at 1:39. The goal was Esposito’s 12th of the season, but just his second in 19 games.
Fargo tied it up at 3:47 thanks to Jack Adams’ league-leading 27th goal of the year. Adams’ wrist shot from the point appeared to hit something in front and deflected past Ivan Kulbakov (22 saves) to tie things up at 1. Fargo took the lead at 8:48 of the first on a power play goal by Christiano Versich, who redirected a point shot into the net for his fifth goal of the season.
The Phantoms tied it with a power play goal of their own at 4:24 of the second period. After a nice keep in at the blue line by Dominic Dockery, Max Ellis received the pass from his defenseman and loosed a wrister from the top of the left circle that beat Bischel to the glove side. Bischel was screened on the play by Austin Pooley and never saw the shot from Ellis, who has six points in eight games this month and five goals on the season. “Max, when he shoots the puck, it finds the back of the net more often than not,” said Patterson. “He was good not only offensively, but he’s been good defensively as well.”
Fargo retook the lead for good three minutes later at 7:25 when Hank Crone batted a high puck into the net for his 17th goal of the year. The puck popped up in the air after hitting Esposito in the leg, and Crone was ruled to have legally batted it into the net.
Youngstown pulled Kulbakov for the extra attacker with 1:16 left in regulation, and had several good looks at the net, but Bischel slammed the door shut to preserve the victory for Fargo. “At the end of the day, a couple tough breaks, but I really liked the way the guys competed in the third period,” concluded Patterson.
The Phantoms return to the ice next Friday night when the Muskegon Lumberjacks come to town for the first of a two-game series with third place in the Eastern Conference on the line. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm Eastern and broadcasts will be available on YPHR and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 23
Saves – 22
Power Play – 1/3
Penalty Kill – 1/2
Goals – A. Esposito, Ellis
Assists – Crawford, Dockery
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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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