YOUNGSTOWN, OH – Trevor Kuntar redirected Jayson Dobay’s shot 2:03 into overtime, lifting the Youngstown Phantoms (13-14-4-1, 31 points) to a 6-5 victory over the United States National Team Development Program’s U17 squad Saturday night at the Covelli Centre. Youngstown trailed 5-2 entering the third period but scored three times on the power play to force overtime.
“It was crazy,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Ups and downs. Lots of momentum swings. It was physical, some great plays. Yeah, I’m sure it was a great game for the fans.”
Team USA opened the scoring at 18:04 of the first period, scoring on a power play blast from Roman Schmidt. 27 seconds later, Jack Hughes doubled the USA lead, and Ty Murchison made it 3-0 in favor of the visitors 5:47 into the second period.
Youngstown broke onto the scoreboard with a power play goal just over a minute-and-a-half later at 7:22. Ben Schoen snapped a puck from the right wing boards towards Kuntar at the far post, but the pass hit a USA defender in front and ricocheted into the net to get the Phantoms on the board. It was Schoen’s first goal of the season, having only played in 11 games so far due to missing over two-and-a-half months with an upper body injury.
The Phantoms doubled their tally moments later at 8:54. Garrett Dahm picked off a clearing attempt and found Jacob Felker open in the high slot. Felker waited for a shooting lane to open up and wristed a 55-footer past Gibson Homer (25 saves) to get the Phantoms within a goal at 3-2.
Team USA answered back with a pair of goals of their own to rebuild their three-goal cushion. Chaz Lucius finished off a 2-on-1 with Dylan Duke at 10:38 to put the U17’s ahead 4-2. Duke’s initial pass was blocked by Phantoms’ defenseman Aiden Gallacher, but the puck bounced right back to Duke and his second pass to Lucius ended in a goal. Off the ensuing faceoff, Sasha Pastujov carried into the zone and scored just 14 seconds later at 10:52 to give Team USA a 5-2 lead and end Dominic Basse’s (8 saves) night in the crease. Colin Purcell came on in relief of Basse and stopped all 14 shots he faced.
“(Colin) made multiple Grade ‘A’ stops when he comes in, and that’s really hard to do coming in cold,” said Patterson. “Very proud of Colin going in to a tough situation and really doing well.”
Down three entering the final period of regulation, Youngstown started its comeback. Georgi Merkulov scored a 4-on-3 power play goal 1:06 into the period, snapping a wrister from the left dot past Homer. Merkulov has started his USHL career off at a torrid pace, scoring 21 points in 18 games.
The Phantoms drew one closer just past the halfway point of the period. After Homer made a brilliant save on Reilly Funk, the rebound popped out to the point. Gallacher threw it back towards the cage and Kuntar redirected it in at 10:22, drawing Youngstown within one at 5-4.
With 2:48 remaining in regulation, Jack Devine of Team USA was called for checking from behind, sending the Phantoms to their seventh power play of the game. With 1:52 remaining in regulation, Patterson called timeout and pulled Purcell to the bench for the extra attacker. Keeping the puck in the zone, Youngstown’s Matthew Cassidy fired a sharp angle shot from the bottom of the right circle that Homer kicked out, but the rebound bounced off Brad Marek and to Gallacher, who deposited it into the cage at 18:43 for his fifth of the season, tying the game and forcing overtime. The Phantoms finished the game 4-for-7 on the power play.
Youngstown almost ended overtime in the first 30 seconds, but the puck trickled out of Merkulov’s reach at the last moment, forcing a weak shot that Homer was able to save. The Phantoms had another great chance 30 seconds later, but Cassidy’s rebound jumped over Felker’s stick at the edge of the crease. USA had their own great chance to end it on a breakaway from Pastujov, but Purcell stopped Pastujov’s backhand attempt at 1:48, forcing overtime to continue. Youngstown won the ensuing faceoff, with Kuntar carrying the puck ahead and passing to Merkulov at the USA line. Merkulov entered the zone and Kuntar went to the front of the net. Delaying momentarily for Kuntar to get to the blue paint, Merkulov then passed to Dobay. Dobay took a stride to get to the top of the circles and loosed a wrister, which Kuntar redirected in for the game winner. Kuntar leads the league with 23 goals on the year and has scored eight goals in five games since returning to the lineup after playing in the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge last month.
Youngstown continues their homestand next weekend with a pair of games against the Tri-City Storm, who are coached by former Phantoms bench boss Anthony Noreen. The two teams will be in action Friday January 17 and Saturday January 18. Puck drop both nights is scheduled for 7:05pm Eastern. Both games are available live on HockeyTV and Western Reserve Radio and on tape delay later in the week on Armstrong Cable.