YOUNGSTOWN, OH – A pair of special team goals by Austin Pooley helped power the Youngstown Phantoms (33-20-5-1, 72 points) past the United States National Team Development Program’s U17 squad 4-2 on Friday night at the Covelli Centre. Pooley’s goals were his 20th and 21st of the season.
“I don’t know if I would have predicted 20 (goals for Pooley),” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “I thought he was going to be a huge asset for us…but to say 20 or 21, that would have been a stretch, but congratulations to him.”
Team USA jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 2:34 into the game on Josh Maniscalco’s fourth goal of the year. Maniscalco picked off a clearing pass at the right point and flicked a wrist shot from the blue line that beat Ivan Kulbakov (18 saves) to give the NTDP the lead. “You never even would have known they scored, the life was high on the bench,” said Patterson. “There was tons of energy, the guys pushed forward and soon enough got one back.”
That lead was short-lived, as Youngstown tied it up less than three minutes later. While the Phantoms were on a two-man advantage, Dominic Dockery let loose a one-timer from the right circle. Anthony Yamnitsky (23 saves) stopped the initial shot, but Pooley was right at the edge of the crease to put home the rebound at 5:11 for his first of the night, and 20th of the season.
Pooley put Youngstown ahead for good at 8:34 of the second period. While shorthanded, Pooley stripped two USA defensemen of the puck in the neutral zone, came down right wing, and fired a wrist shot from the dot that beat Yamnitsky over the glove for his 21st goal of the season and second of the game.
Alex Esposito increased the Phantoms’ lead to 3-1 at 10:49. Esposito was the beneficiary of some nice passing by Pierce Crawford and Steven Ruggiero. Crawford picked off a clearing attempt and found an oncoming Ruggiero crashing down the slot. Ruggiero sent a backhand pass across to Esposito in the left circle. After a quick toe-drag, Esposito blasted a shot into the top right corner of the net over Yamnitsky’s glove for his 17th goal of the season, fourth in the last five games.
USA drew within one with a power play goal at 4:21 of the third period on Mattias Samuelsson’s fifth of the season, but the Phantoms were able to withstand any further NTDP rally and Evan Wisocky scored on the empty net with 0.4 seconds remaining to seal the victory for Youngstown.
With the win, Youngstown’s magic number to clinch a playoff berth is down to one. All the Phantoms have to do to secure the fourth playoff berth in team history is force the NTDP to overtime tomorrow, which would vault Youngstown over Green Bay in the standings. A regulation loss by the Phantoms would give the final playoff spot to the Gamblers. The Phantoms wrap up their regular season tomorrow night against this same US NTDP U17 squad needing just that one point to clinch the playoff spot and a first-round date with the Chicago Steel. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm eastern time and broadcasts will be available on YPHR and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 27
Saves – 18
Power Play – 1/5
Penalty Kill – 2/3
Goals – Pooley (2), A. Esposito, Wisocky
Assists – Crawford (2), Dockery, Karow, Mahalak, 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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