YOUNGSTOWN, OH – A three-goal second period helped boost the Youngstown Phantoms (36-21-1-4, 77 points) to a 4-1 win over the United States National Team Development Program’s U17 squad Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
“I thought it was a good game,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “I thought we got better as time went, really started to wear them down if you will. (Team USA is) a heck of a hockey team…that’s a really good club, so I’m proud of our guys for showing up, and we’re going to need that again on Monday.”
Team USA scored their only goal of the night just before the halfway point of the first period. After a turnover just inside their own blueline, the Nationals broke back down the ice in a 4-on-2 rush towards the Youngstown end. Puck carrier Hunter McKown dropped a pass for the trailer Owen Gallatin, and Gallatin snapped a wrister past the blocker of Chad Veltri (25 saves) to give the NTDP a 1-0 lead 9:38 into the first period.
Youngstown tied the game on Gianfranco Cassaro’s powerplay goal at the 4:21 of the second period. Cassaro’s wrist shot from the left circle tucked just under the crossbar and past the glove of Drew Commesso (23 saves) to tie the game. Matt DeMelis gave the Phantoms the lead for good at 12:17, sneaking behind the USA defense and beating Commesso with a backhand-forehand deke. Brett Murray rounded out his record-setting regular season and secured the USHL’s goal scoring crown with his 41st goal of the season at 17:55, giving Youngstown a 3-1 lead at the end of the second period. Connor MacEachern sneaked a 20-foot backhander through Commesso’s five hole at 9:50 of the third period to round out the scoring.
A win and a regulation loss by the Chicago Steel would have moved the Phantoms into second place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference and earned them a first-round bye, but the Steel knocked off the Muskegon Lumberjacks 8-1, keeping Youngstown in the third spot and matching them up with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Game One of the best-of-three series will be Monday April 15 at the Covelli Centre at 7:05pm Eastern. Game Two will be Tuesday April 16 at 7:05pm Eastern, and Game Three, if necessary, will be Wednesday April 17 at 7:05pm Eastern. All games will be broadcast on HockeyTV and Western Reserve Radio.
By the Numbers
Shots – 27
Saves – 25
Power Play – 1/5
Penalty Kill – 6/6
Goals – Cassaro, DeMelis, MacEachern, Murray
Assists – Abate, MacEachern (2), Malone, Messina, Murray, Schoen, Urup