CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders scored the last four goals of the game, including the game winner 1:43 into overtime to hand the Youngstown Phantoms (31-18-5-1, 68 points) a 4-3 overtime loss Saturday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
“I thought the first 40 minutes we controlled the play, I thought we had a lot of chances,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Tough to stomach, that’s for sure.”
TJ Walsh potted the overtime winner for Cedar Rapids, firing high over the outstretched glove of Britt League (28 saves) for a power play goal, Walsh’s sixth tally of the season. League was making his first start since December 27, snapping a string of 26 consecutive games played by Ivan Kulbakov. The overtime loss was the first loss of any kind in League’s USHL career, but Youngstown has managed at least a point in all four of his starts. “I thought Britt was tremendous,” said Patterson. “He can play with anybody in the league.”
Austin Pooley got Youngstown on the board first with a power play goal at 10:23 of the first period. Pooley redirected a Michael Karow shot past Drew DeRidder (18 saves) for his team-leading 19th goal of the season and the Phantoms first power play goal in their last 15 attempts. “I thought (the power play) had good looks tonight, I thought they had good looks last night,” Patterson said. “Obviously you want more production, but I thought they kept the momentum every time they were on the ice.”
Alex Esposito doubled the Phantoms’ lead at the 13:00 mark, tapping home a pass from his brother Eric right after Eric escaped the penalty box. Alex’s 14th goal of the year gave Youngstown a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.
Karow’s fourth goal of the season put Youngstown up 3-0 at 16:01 of the second period. Karow’s shot from the blue line was tipped at the edge of the crease by a Cedar Rapids defender and went past DeRidder. Karow has scored a goal in each of his last three games. “I think Mike’s been steady all year,” Patterson added. “Mike’s a character guy, you can put him in any situation, and he’s done a tremendous job all year for us.”
Cedar Rapids started their comeback just moments after the Karow’s goal. Dalton Messina pounded home a rebound for a power play goal at 17:29 of the second to put the RoughRiders on the board. Cedar Rapids made it 3-2 with Scott Perunovich’s redirect goal at 7:34 of the third period and tied the game with another redirect goal at 12:15, that one from Tomas Vochozka, his first career USHL goal. Youngstown had a power play with 3:58 remaining in regulation, but was unable to convert, sending the game to overtime. The Phantoms were called for having too many men on the ice at 1:13 of the extra period, setting the scene for Walsh’s overtime winner.
The overtime loss, coupled with a regulation win for the Green Bay Gamblers, means Youngstown has slipped into a tie with Green Bay at 68 points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Phantoms have played two fewer games than the Gamblers. Youngstown’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to seven. Green Bay currently owns the first tiebreaker over Youngstown, regulation/overtime wins (ROW), 30-26. Should the Phantoms and Gamblers be tied in ROW at the end of the season, Youngstown owns the second tiebreaker, head-to-head matchup, by virtue of winning the season series from Green Bay 2-1.
Youngstown wraps up their final road trip of the season on Sunday with a 4:05pm Eastern puck drop against the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Steel in what could be a preview of an opening round playoff matchup. Broadcasts of the game will be available on HockeyTV and the Chicago Steel Broadcast Network on MIX.lr.
By the Numbers
Shots – 21
Saves – 28
Power Play – 1/2
Penalty Kill – 4/6
Goals – Pooley, A. Esposito, Karow
Assists – Estes (2), E. Esposito, Pooley, 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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