YOUNGSTOWN, OH – Trailing 3-1 halfway through regulation, the Youngstown Phantoms (24-18-1-4, 53 points) battled back to tie the first-place Muskegon Lumberjacks and force overtime before eventually falling in a shootout by the score of 4-3 Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
“There were a lot of momentum swings,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Obviously they scored early, and it’s not like we had a bad start. I liked the resiliency in the guys coming back. I really liked our pushback, I really liked how we clamped down as the game went.”
Muskegon got on the board first, taking advantage of an early Youngstown turnover to grab a 1-0 lead. Bobby Lynch took advantage of a puck that was poked away from Jack Malone at the Muskegon line. The loose puck squirted back to Lynch at the Youngstown line and he raced in on Chad Veltri (32 saves), slipping the puck past Veltri’s outstretched right leg to put the Lumberjacks ahead just 94 seconds into the game. Lynch’s goal snapped Veltri’s shutout streak at 124:23, the third-longest streak in team history.
The Phantoms tied the game minutes later thanks to great efforts on the part of Trevor Kuntar and Matthew Barnaby Jr. Kuntar was bodied hard in the neutral zone by a Muskegon defender, but was able to kick the puck along to Barnaby, who entered the Muskegon end with speed. He cut across the hashmarks and from the slot he shot back against the grain and beat Brandon Bussi (32 saves) past the right glove hand at 6:37 to knot the game at 1-1.
Muskegon grabbed the lead back before the period ended with a power play goal. Nolan Sullivan was credited with the tally during a net-front scramble that saw the puck pop in in the air and float into the net before quickly being knocked back out by a Phantom defender. The puck did cross the line, however, and the Lumberjacks had a 2-1 lead at 12:44. They increased their lead to 3-1 just before the halfway point of regulation. Sullivan cut down the slot and took a feed from Oliver MacDonald. Sullivan faked forehand, switched over to the backhand, and elevated his shot over Veltri for his second of the game and a 3-1 Muskegon lead at 9:59 of the second.
Youngstown struck twice in the final five minutes of the period to tie the game back up. Brett Murray beat Bussi off the post and in for his league-leading 33rd goal of the year at 15:03 to cut the lead to 3-2. Barnaby got his second of the game, this one on the power play, at 18:16 to even things at 3-3.
After a scoreless third period and a scoreless overtime the game went to the shootout. In the skills competition, Lynch and Egor Afanasyev converted their chances in the first and third rounds respectively, while Barnaby was stopped by Bussi and Murray had his attempt roll off his stick for a 2-0 Muskegon victory in the shootout, giving the ‘Jacks the bonus point.
By virtue of reaching overtime, the Phantoms did pick up one point in the standings and now have a two-point lead on the fifth-place Dubuque Fighting Saints. Youngstown and Muskegon wrap up their weekend series tomorrow evening with a 5:00pm puck drop at the Covelli Centre.
By the Numbers
Shots – 35
Saves – 32
Power Play – 1/4
Penalty Kill – 2/3
Goals – Barnaby (2), Murray
Assists – Abate (2), DeLuca, Dennison, Kuntar, Malone