CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The rigors of the road caught up to the Youngstown Phantoms Saturday night at the Stable. The Phantoms grabbed the game’s first goal but could not hold onto the lead as the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders followed with four unanswered and went on to win 5-2.
John Padulo scored both goals for Youngstown (20-19-0, 40 points), which was playing its third road game in as many days – all against different opponents. Goalie Sean Romeo surrendered four goals on 19 shots and was tagged with the loss.
“The fact is, we can’t allow the rigors of this league to dictate whether or not we win or lose,” head coach Anthony Noreen said. “We need to find a way. Overall this weekend we battled hard and there was no quit in us tonight.”
The Phantoms opened the first with great energy and were rewarded 4:12 in. An errant pass at the Youngstown blue line sailed all the way down to the Cedar Rapids zone and Kyle Connor won the race to the loose puck. The 16-year-old quickly gathered it at the half wall and threaded a pass across the crease for Padulo, who tapped it in with ease for his ninth goal of the season.
“We were probably at our best the first 10 minutes of the game,” Noreen said. “After that, it just wasn’t us.”
The RoughRiders (16-20-5, 37 points) got on the board less at the 8:57 mark, after two failed clearing attempts, Jack Rowe knocked in a rebound. Then with just 1:49 remaining in the period while the Phantoms were in the midst of a line change, Dylan Steman poked the puck free at the Youngstown blue line and went in on a breakaway and beat Romeo with a wrist shot on the stick-side.
The ‘Riders added another goal in the second, but not without a little controversy. Andrew Poturalski tried to stuff in a wraparound but Romeo trapped the puck against the right post. Poturalski continued to dig away at it as Corey Petrash drove to the net and bowled over Romeo in the crease to push the puck past the goal line at the 11:43 mark.
Cedar Rapids stretched the lead to 4-1 midway when Davey Middleton potted a short-handed goal midway through the third period. The RoughRiders dumped the puck into the Youngstown zone and Middleton was left unguarded in the slot, got a pass a put it past Romeo.
Facing a three-goal deficit with less than five minutes remaining, Noreen made a brash move and pulled the netminder for the extra attacker. The gamble paid off. Dan Renouf wristed a shot from the left circle and Padulo got a stick on it to deflect it past Birdsall for his second score of the night to cut the RoughRiders’ lead in half with 3:02 remaining.
“A loss is a loss,” Noreen said. “I don’t care if we lose 10-0 or 1-0, if we’re going to lose a game, we’re going to go out swinging.
“I think when we [pulled the goalie], it definitely perked the guys up a little bit. Then we get one and have the opportunity to bring it within one. Then anything can happen.”
Noreen pulled Romeo again shortly after the ensuing draw, but Judd Peterson was able to get possession and put it into the yawning net to secure the win for Cedar Rapids.
“No matter how many games we play on the road, or how tough our travel is, we have to find a way to be us,” Noreen said. “We just have to find a way. That’s the bottom line because we’ve got a lot of games coming up and the way we played tonight was unacceptable.”
Phantoms by the Numbers
Shots – 25
Saves – 15
Power Play – 0-for-8
Penalty Kill – 3-for-3
Goals – Padulo (2)
Assists – Connor (2), Renouf
Next on the Slate
The Phantoms return to the Mahoning Valley for a single-game homestand. They host the defending Clark Cup Champion Green Bay Gamblers Friday at the Covelli Centre. Puck drop is set for 7:15 p.m. EST.
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