February 21, 2014
By Ryan Schwepfinger
GREEN BAY, Wisconsin – Following last Saturday’s overtime victory over Des Moines, in a game where the Phantoms outshot the Buccaneers by 25, the general sentiment around the team was that it was the type of performance that could spring an offensive run.
So far, so good.
Fueled by JJ Piccinich’s two goals, Youngstown exploded for a season-high seven goals to defeat the Green Bay Gamblers by a 7-3 final at the Resch Center.
“We had a great mix of everything,” said Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen. “The line that started out for us—Larsson, Nenadal, and Lemirande—they set the tone. We need those guys to do that. Stork, Spezia, and Evancho did a great job speed-wise and defensively, and our top two skill lines did their job. You saw a little bit of everything with what we try to bring to the table, and on top of that, our defensemen did a tremendous job blocking shots, and Sean [Romeo] made some big saves when we needed him to.”
Each team notched two power play goals in the first period, setting the tone for what was an exciting, uptempo game. Piccinich put the Phantoms on the board first at the 5:05 mark with a deadly accurate shot to the top corner, but Matthew Weis answered with two power play markers for the Gamblers over the next five minutes, stunning the Phantoms briefly, but not entirely, according to Kyle Connor.
“We’ve always relied on Romeo in the net,” said the Phantoms’ leading scorer. “We knew he wasn’t going to give up any more after that. We kept positive, and we knew that our chances would come, and eventually they did.”
Indeed, Romeo was all but perfect from that point on, holding Green Bay to just one goal over the remaining 50 minutes of hockey, and the Youngstown offense did the rest. Kiefer Sherwood tied it with a power play goal of his own, and Zach Evancho tallied with just 50 seconds left in the opening frame—a backbreaking goal for Green Bay.
“That goal was huge,” said Noreen. “It was a huge momentum shift. We go down 2-1, we make it 2-2 on the power play, and then get a goal in the last minute. From there, we never really looked back.”
The Phantoms really took hold of the game in the second period, where they held the Gamblers to just three shots on goal and scored twice more to pad their advantage. Piccinich and Trey Bradley found the back of the net in the frame to put Youngstown ahead 5-2 after two. The message to the team in the second intermission was simple, according to Noreen: the plan is working.
“We drew up a plan, we’ve stuck to it so far, and it’s worked,” said the Phantoms coach. “Don’t veer, don’t change anything, don’t go into a shell, don’t get overly offensive, just keep playing the game you’re playing, and you’ll get the result you’ll want.”
In the third, with the result all but decided, Noreen stressed to his team to not play overly defensively.
“I’ve said this many times: I honestly don’t even know what a trap is. I don’t want to know what it is; I have no want to go into defensive hockey. We’re going to play attack no matter what the scoreboard says.”
Fueled by this philosophy, Youngstown extended the lead to 6-2 courtesy of Conor Lemirande, who was playing back in his home state of Wisconsin. Although Green Bay made it 6-3 shortly after, Josh Melnick’s empty netter ensured the victory, and gave the Phantoms their season-high watermark in goals, with seven.
While the Phantoms have gone through their struggles this season, tonight’s game was indicative of the potential the young players on the Youngstown roster hold for the remainder of this season and beyond.
“I’ve said it many times: this group, at times, is the best I’ve had in the four years I’ve been here,” said Noreen. “The consistency is an issue, but right now, with the type of hockey we’re playing, I like us against anybody. Our young guys are starting to come into their own.
“If you watch that game as a fan, I don’t think you’d think we’re sitting where we are in the standings. That’s a tribute to our guys of buying in and not looking at the standings. Our goals haven’t changed. We want to get better every day, and we want to keep pressing. Hopefully, we can continue to do that tomorrow night.”
Phantoms by the Numbers
Shots – 20
Saves – 23
Power Play – 2/3
Penalty Kill – 3/5
Goals – Piccinich 2, Sherwood, Evancho, Bradley, Lemirande, Melnick
Assists – Bradley, Piccinich 2, Stork, Connor, Letunov
Next on the Slate
The Phantoms will continue their road swing with a second contest in Green Bay tomorrow night, followed by a matinee in Chicago on Sunday.
Single game tickets are on sale now for all Phantoms’ home games at the Covelli Centre. Phantoms 10-Game Flex Plans are also available starting at the low price of just $89. Call 330.747.PUCK (7825) for more information or to reserve seats today. For all the latest news, visit www.YoungstownPhantoms.com, follow the Phantoms on Twitter (@YtownPhantoms) and ‘like’ them on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/YoungstownPhantoms).
Headquartered in Chicago, the USHL now prepares for its 12th season as the nation’s only Tier I junior hockey league in 2013-14. With 19 NHL Draft picks on team rosters and more than 300 players already committed to NCAA Division I schools this season, the USHL has emerged as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent. For more information, visit us on the web at www.USHL.com. Fans can also watch USHL action all season long, live or on-demand via FASTHockey (ushl.fasthockey.com).
It’s not just hockey. It’s the USHL.
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