YOUNGSTOWN, OH – Trevor Kuntar’s goal with 1.5 seconds remaining in regulation completed the comeback for the Youngstown Phantoms (33-20-1-4, 71 points) just in the nick of time as they downed the United States National Team Development Program’s U17 squad Sunday night at the Covelli Centre.
“I thought USA really used their speed early,” said Patterson. “They haven’t played as much hockey as we have in the past couple of days. They’re an electric team, they’re high pace, high execution. Our guys stuck with the process. We talked about owning a couple specific areas of the rink tonight and really focusing in on those. The guys did that in the third period and were rewarded for it.”
Youngstown got on the board first, converting on their second power play of the game. With a lot of traffic in front of NTDP starting netminder Drew Commesso (15 saves), Connor MacEachern was able to pick his spot as he stood at the top of the left circle, and his wrist shot found the twine for his 24th goal of the season, giving the Phantoms a 1-0 lead.
USA scored the next three goals to grab a 3-1 advantage. Ryder Rolston scored a power play goal at 8:01 to tie the game at 1-1, Luke Tuch backhanded one home at 12:43 to give USA its first lead, and Dylan Peterson extended the lead at 1:34 of the second when he finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Danny Weight to put the NTDP on top 3-1.
Youngstown started on the comeback trail at 12:58 with Brett Murray’s breakaway goal. With Liam Robertson and Daniel Dzhaniyev in their respective penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, action on the ice was four skaters-a-side. Murray poked the puck away from a USA skater at his own blue line, creating a breakaway from center ice-in. Skating down the middle of the ice into the USA zone, Murray snapped a wrist shot from the hashmarks that beat USA relief goaltender Noah Grannan (12 saves) to the blocker side, drawing the Phantoms back to within one at 3-2 going into the second intermission.
The Phantoms tied the game 13:51 into the third period. Aiden Gallacher fired a shot from the right point that was redirected by Matthew Barnaby Jr. off Matt DeMelis for his 12th goal of the season, leveling the game at 3-3, setting the stage for Kuntar’s heroics. With time winding down in regulation, a shot came to the USA net from Gallacher at the left point. Grannan made the initial save, and the rebound went behind the net to Kuntar. Coming out to the weak side, Kuntar was able to flip the puck off of Grannan’s back and into the net with 1.5 seconds remaining in regulation, clinching the victory for Youngstown.
The victory was the 100th in Coach Patterson’s career and the 300th for the Phantoms as a member of the USHL. “It’s news to me,” said Patterson when he was informed of the milestone. “But it feels good. We’ve been through a lot over the past four or five days, played a lot of hockey. To get it at the end and to have everyone contribute tonight, it was special.” The win also jumped Youngstown over Cedar Rapids and into third place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference, just one point behind second place Chicago. Youngstown continues their homestand with a two-game set against the Sioux Falls Stampede this Friday and Saturday night at the Covelli Centre. Friday is Pittsburgh Penguins night and an “Orange Out” has been called for. Saturday is First Responder Appreciation night and the Phantoms will be wearing their Batman-themed jerseys. Puck drop both nights is scheduled for 7:05pm Eastern and broadcasts will be available on Western Reserve Radio and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 31
Saves – 21
Power Play – 1/5
Penalty Kill – 5/6
Goals – DeMelis, Kuntar, MacEachern, Murray
Assists – Barnaby, Farrell, Gallacher (2), Schoen, Urup