YOUNGSTOWN, OH – Goals from Matthew Barnaby and Brett Murray paired with a 20-save performance from Chad Veltri as the Youngstown Phantoms (27-14-1-4, 59 points) downed the Green Bay Gamblers 3-1 Sunday night at the Covelli Centre.
“(That was a) tough game,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “I thought the chances were limited both ways. I really liked our start. Then it got a little bit muddy through the game…as the third period went, we talked about sticking to the process and ultimately found a way to get it done.”
Youngstown got on the board first thanks to a wonderful play by Barnaby. After a faceoff win by the Gamblers, defenseman Tyler Spott tried to make a pass to his defensive partner Xan Gurney. Barnaby stole that pass, used Gurney for a screen, and whipped a shot past Ryan Ullan (32 saves) from the high slot at 7:28 to give the Phantoms a 1-0 lead. “(Matt) has a sneaky stick,” said Patterson. “If you talked to Matt right now, he’d probably tell you about us harping on him to shoot the puck more and I’m glad it’s paying dividends for him”
A pretty tic-tac-toe passing play led to a power play goal for Austin Heidemann at 17:43 of the first tying things up at 1-1, and the score would stay that way until just after the midway point of the third period. Jack Malone took a half-slapper from the slot that rose up over the cage and settled down for Murray. Murray quickly wrapped the rebound around to the left post and stuffed it into the net for his league-leading 34th goal of the season, putting Youngstown ahead 2-1 at 10:24. “Brett has been ‘Mr. Everything’ for this club,” said Patterson. “I’ll leave it at that.” With Murray’s goal, he is now within three of tying Sam Anas’ team record of 37 goals during the 2012-2013 season.
Green Bay pulled Ullan for the extra attacker with 2:05 left in regulation when they were going to have an offensive zone draw. After Green Bay controlled the draw for about 30 seconds, the puck came around to the right point and Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly flicked a shot towards the net, but it hit Craig Needham in the shins and ricocheted out to center. Needham caught up to the puck at the red line, gained the Green Bay zone and fired towards the empty cage, but missed. The rebound bounced to Barnaby, and as the defense collapsed on him, he passed to Needham, who was standing in the blue paint, and Needham tapped it into the empty net for his 13th goal of the season and a 3-1 Phantoms win.
The victory drops Youngstown’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot for the third straight year down to nine. The Phantoms could clinch a playoff spot as early as next Sunday in Madison, depending on the results of the Central Illinois Flying Aces. Youngstown will now hit the road for a four-game road trip, beginning in Chicago next Friday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:05pm Eastern in Illinois Friday night and the game will be available on HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 34
Saves – 20
Power Play – 0/3
Penalty Kill – 1/2
Goals – Barnaby, Murray, Needham
Assists – Barnaby, Malone, Messina