YOUNGSTOWN, OH – He was almost sent to the NAHL three months ago by the Sioux Falls Stampede. Now, Chad Veltri has three shutouts in his last four starts and tonight backstopped the Youngstown Phantoms (25-18-1-4, 55 points) to a 2-0 whitewashing of the Eastern Conference-leading Muskegon Lumberjacks at the Covelli Centre.
“Chad has been terrific,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Dating back to his time years ago when he used to come in and practice with us, he’s always been consistent and he always steps up in big games. We’re very happy to have him.”
Youngstown grabbed the lead late in the first period. During 4-on-4 action, Joey Abate stole the puck at center and brought it into the Muskegon zone. As Trevor Kuntar created a screen in front of Muskegon netminder Brandon Bussi (21 saves), Abate dropped the puck off to the trailer on the play, Nikolai Jenson. Using Kuntar’s screen, Jenson slid a shot from the right dot past Bussi’s glove to put the Phantoms ahead 1-0 at 15:40. “(Nikolai) has been good, he’s been steady,” said Patterson. “He does things that are so productive for us and allow us to transition and allow us to play the way that we do…It’s playoff hockey for us now until we’re not playing anymore. Somebody different is going to step up on a daily basis, and I’m glad it was somebody that doesn’t always hit the scoresheet because he deserves that.”
Youngstown maintained their 1-0 through the rest of the game until Muskegon sent Bussi to the bench at 18:22 of the third period for the extra attacker. Twenty-two seconds later, Dalton Messina and Matt DeMelis won a fierce puck battle in the neutral zone that ended with DeMelis slipping behind the Muskegon defense and firing one into the empty net, securing the victory for the Phantoms with 22.2 seconds left on the clock.
The Phantoms wrapped up their weekend series with Muskegon taking three of a possible four points from the Lumberjacks, opening up their lead on fifth-place Dubuque to four points. Youngstown’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot in the 2019 Clark Cup Playoff is down to 13 when combined with the Central Illinois loss this evening. Youngstown will wrap up their four-game homestand next weekend with a Saturday-Sunday pair of games against the Green Bay Gamblers.
By the Numbers
Shots – 22
Saves – 31
Power Play – 0/4
Penalty Kill – 3/3
Goals – DeMelis, Jenson
Assists – Abate, Messina