YOUNGSTOWN, OH – After jumping out to a 2-0 lead through two periods of play, the Youngstown Phantoms held on for a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Steel on Saturday night to force a decisive Game 5 on Tuesday night in Chicago.
“That was playoff hockey to a ‘T’,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “That’s what you expect, close games, close battles, emotions to be high, and big swings in momentum.”
Youngstown opened the scoring at 14:56 of the first period with Austin Pooley’s first goal of the playoffs. Pooley was perched at the edge of the crease and redirected Michael Karow’s slapshot from the point past Chicago netminder Ales Stezka (24 saves) to give the Phantoms the 1-0 advantage.
Coale Norris doubled the Youngstown lead just one minute into the second period. Norris picked off a pass in the Chicago end and fired a wrist shot from the right-wing boards that beat Stezka through the five hole to give the Phantoms a 2-0 advantage.
After Chicago got on the board at 10:04 of the third period with Marc Johnstone’s second goal of the playoffs, Evan Wisocky gave the Phantoms back their two-goal advantage at 12:33 with his first goal of the postseason. Wisocky and Alex Esposito entered the zone in a 2-on-2 rush. After crossing with Esposito, Wisocky did a slight toe drag to his right and fired a wrist shot back against the grain that found its way into the net between Stezka’s blocker and the crossbar to give Youngstown a 3-1 lead.
A turnover in the defensive zone allowed Eduards Tralmaks to cut Youngstown’s lead back to one at 13:23 with his third goal of the playoffs. From that point on Youngstown turned up the defensive intensity to keep Chicago off the board for the remainder of regulation and force Game 5. Chicago pulled Stezka for the extra attacker with 1:09 remaining in regulation, but the Phantoms defense did not allow a single shot on Ivan Kulbakov (16 saves) while the Steel had six skaters on the ice. Asked to describe his defense in one word, Patterson used “relentless”.
“We had one goal in mind, and that was to live another day,” concluded Patterson. “Tuesday’s obviously a big test for us, but at the end of the day we wanted to put the pressure on Chicago. We’ve got to go out there, we’ve got to have the details that we do, and we’re going to have to be better than we were tonight.”
Game 5 will be Tuesday night at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Illinois with the winner poised to take on the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the Eastern Conference Finals. Puck drop on Tuesday is scheduled for 8:05pm Eastern and broadcasts will be available on HockeyTV and the Chicago Steel Broadcast Network on mixLR.
By the Numbers
Shots – 30
Saves – 16
Power Play – 0/2
Penalty Kill – 1/1
Goals – Pooley, Norris, Wisocky
Assists – Crawford, Karow, 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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