YOUNGSTOWN, OH – Despite a pair of two-goal deficits, the Youngstown Phantoms (19-19-6-2, 46 points) came back to tie the game in the final minute of regulation and force overtime before falling in the bonus frame to the Chicago Steel 5-4 Wednesday morning at the Covelli Centre.
“I thought it was a great game,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Early, I thought we had a lot of momentum the first couple of minutes…as the game went I felt like we got better and better.”
Chicago struck twice in the first period to gain an early advantage. Dawson Pasternak redirected a shot from the left point through the five-hole of Colin Purcell (25 saves) at 4:01 and Erik Middendorf tapped home a backdoor feed at 14:54 to give the visitors the two-goal advantage. “I felt like we were chasing the puck a lot (in the first period), specifically in our end,” said Patterson. “I felt like for 12-15 minutes in the first period we weren’t great at that.”
Youngstown cut into the Chicago lead 6:36 into the second period. Just after he escaped the penalty box, Artyom Borshyov found Ben Schoen coming down the left side of the ice. Schoen carried to the left dot and snapped a wrister past the glove of Ian Shane (17 saves) to cut the Steel lead to 2-1. The Steel answered back with a power play goal from Owen Power at 13:47 to regain their two-goal advantage.
Youngstown wasn’t done in the second, striking twice in the final three minutes of the frame to tie the game. Georgi Merkulov fired a pass from his own end to Matthew Cassidy in the neutral zone. Cassidy carried down the right side and snapped a wrister past Shane short-side at 17:13 cutting the Chicago lead to 3-2. With time winding down in the period, Aiden Gallacher fired a wrister past Shane from the left circle with 23.8 left in the period for a power play goal, knotting the game at 3-3. Gallacher has scored four of his eight goals this season against Chicago. “(Aiden) has been terrific,” said Patterson. “He’s playing in much different situations than what he was last year. He played big minutes for us last year in a shut down role, and he still loves doing that. He’s extremely hard to play against. He’s also taken on some offensive responsibilities, and those were areas that he didn’t get the chance to last year, but he’s really developed into that and put a lot of hard work into that.”
The Steel grabbed the league back 59 seconds into the third period. It was Power again, firing a wrister from the right boards over Purcell’s shoulder to give Chicago a 4-3 lead. With 1:10 left in regulation, Youngstown earned a powerplay when Mackie Samoskevich was called for boarding. With Purcell on the bench for the extra attacker, Gallacher pumped a shot on net that hit Cassidy in front and redirected into the net with 35.8 left in regulation, tying the game at 4-4, forcing overtime.
Youngstown almost won the off the opening faceoff in overtime. Trevor Kuntar won the opening faceoff and forced his way into the Chicago zone, creating a 2-on-1 with Cassidy. Kutnar hit the edge of the left circle and fired a shot, but broke his stick on the attempt and the shot trickled wide. Later in overtime Georgi Merkulov stole the puck behind the Chicago net and centered for Kuntar, but his shot went over the cage. With 3:00 remaining in overtime, Brendan Brisson carried down the left side of the ice in a 2-on-1 with Elis Hede. Brisson made a perfect cross-ice feed to Hede, who fired the one-timer past Purcell to give Chicago the extra point.
This game wrapped up the season series between Youngstown and Chicago, with the Steel earning 10 points in the 6 games and the Phantoms earning 4. With the point in this game from forcing overtime, the Phantoms moved a point ahead of the Green Bay Gamblers into fourth place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference, but Green Bay has three games in-hand on the Phantoms. The #3 and #4 seed in each conference will host a best-of-three first round in the Clark Cup Playoffs.
Youngstown takes to the road tomorrow night, travelling up to Plymouth, Michigan to take on Team USA’s U18 squad. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm Eastern, and the game will be broadcast on HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 21
Saves – 25
Power Play – 2/3
Penalty Kill – 2/4
Goals – Cassidy (2), Gallacher, Schoen
Assists – Borshyov, Gallacher, Kuntar, Merkulov (2)