YOUNGSTOWN, OH – After grabbing a 2-0 lead before the game was three minutes old, the Youngstown Phantoms (26-18-1-4, 57 points) needed a three-goal third period to come from behind to knock off the Green Bay Gamblers 5-3 Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
“I felt like we cheated a little bit after going up 2-0 early,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Green Bay made us pay for a while. Credit to our guys, we came in (to the locker room) and had a little bit of a heart-to-heart and talked about some things we needed to correct internally. I felt like we did that in the third period.”
Youngstown grabbed a 1-0 lead on the game’s first shift. Arsenii Smekhnov tracked down Jeppe Urup’s dump in behind the net and found Craig Needham sitting at the right post. Needham deposited the pass behind Maksim Zhukov (26 saves) just 23 seconds into the game for his 12th goal of the season and a 1-0 Phantom advantage. Liam Dennison doubled the Youngstown lead at 2:03 with a low wrist shot through traffic on the power play. Dennison’s fourth of the year gave the Phantoms a 2-0 lead and made it seem like Youngstown was going to have an easy night. “I thought it was an explosive start, that first two minutes,” said Patterson. “I felt like maybe we thought it was going to be like that for a sustained period and with any team in this league, you’re not going to have that.”
Green Bay came storming back, scoring the next three goals to grab a 3-2 lead at the second intermission. Noah Prokop got inside position on his man and was able to poke home a centering feed at 7:55 of the first to cut the Youngstown lead to 2-1. Luke Mylymok was the beneficiary of a Youngstown turnover and backhanded one past Chad Veltri (22 saves) at 18:55 of the first to tie the game at 2-2. Benito Posa scored on a breakaway at 15:36 of the second to give the Gamblers the lead at 3-2.
The Phantoms tied the game before the third period was a minute old. Connor MacEachern blasted a one-timer from above the circles past Zhukov’s glove just 51 seconds into the third period, knotting things up at 3-3. Urup gave Youngstown back the lead for good at 6:39, sneaking in the back door and cashing in a wonderful cross-ice pass from Jack Malone. It was Urup’s third goal of the season, first as a Phantoms since being acquired from Sioux Falls at the beginning of February. “(Jeppe) has a calming influence,” said Patterson. “He’s that lightbulb when you walk into the room, the guys really feed off of him. He’s been a huge addition for us and played some big-time minutes and gets rewarded tonight.” Matt DeMelis finished off a picture-perfect 2-on-1 break with Josh DeLuca at 8:55 for his 11th marker of the campaign to cap off the night.
The win allowed the Phantoms to gain ground on all three teams above them in the standings as Muskegon, Chicago, and Cedar Rapids all lost Saturday night. Youngstown also needed to points to keep three clear of fifth-place Team USA, as the Nationals have come charging up the standings as they catch up their USHL schedule. The Phantoms do have a three-point lead on Team USA, but the NTDP has two games-in-hand and will pick up one more when the Phantoms play tomorrow. Youngstown’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to 11. The Phantoms will wrap up their season series with Green Bay and conclude this four-game homestand Sunday evening against the Gamblers. Puck drop is scheduled for 5pm Eastern and the game will be broadcast on Western Reserve Radio and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 31
Saves – 22
Power Play – 1/3
Penalty Kill – 2/2
Goals – DeMelis, Dennison, MacEachern, Needham, Urup
Assists – Cassaro, DeLuca, Kuntar, MacEachern, Malone, Murray, Schoen (2), Smekhnov, Urup