YOUNGSTOWN, OH – Bouncing back from an abysmal performance the night before, the Youngstown Phantoms (20-22-6-2, 48 points) had noticeably more energy from the drop of the puck and led the entire game, downing the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 3-1 Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
“Our leadership core was driving the ship tonight,” said Patterson. “I said to the guys yesterday that we had a few passengers (during the game), and I didn’t feel that way tonight. I thought we had four lines that contributed. Everyone played their part tonight and stuck with it.”
The opening Youngstown marker came 13:24 into the first period. After a defensive zone faceoff win, Youngstown played the puck off the glass and into the neutral zone. A 3-on-2 rush developed and the puck settled in the slot for Ben Schoen. Schoen squared up to the net, but instead of shooting he fired a pass to Josh DeLuca. DeLuca was wide open on the back door, and he slammed it home for his fifth of the season and a 1-0 Phantoms lead. “(Josh) does a lot of the hard work and the dirty work that you need guys to do,” said Patterson. “He’s become a complete player. He can play in any situation, and he gets rewarded with a (goal) tonight.”
The Phantoms doubled their lead late in the second period. It was another 3-on-2 rush, this one led by John Beaton carrying the puck down the right side. With Jacob Felker driving the net to open the passing lane, Beaton found Jayson Dobay trailing the play. Dobay snapped a wrister past Nick Simo (26 saves) high to the blocker side for his sixth of the campaign, giving Youngstown a 2-0 advantage. “Jay was consistently moving his feet both games this weekend, and when he does that, he’s an exceptional defenseman,” said Patterson. “He’s always good, and if you pay attention to the details, he does some things quietly. He definitely made a good step this weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing much more.”
Youngstown tacked on another goal at 13:09 of the third period. Trevor Kuntar was left alone at the inner edge of the left circle and blasted a one-timer past Simo for a 3-0 Phantoms lead. The goal was Kuntar’s team-leading 28th of the season, the third-highest total in the USHL.
The Phantoms couldn’t keep the RoughRiders off the board, however. After a stretch pass from below the red line of the defensive end, Grant Silianoff found Jack O’Leary crashing the far post, and O’Leary touched it into the cage for the lone Cedar Rapids tally of the night at 15:50, ending Dominic Basse’s bid for his second shutout of the season. Basse stopped 31 of 32 RoughRider shots. “Dom made big stop on the breakaway when it was 1-0, it was a huge momentum boost on the bench,” said Patterson. “I think our ‘D’ good a good job protecting the house, same with our forwards, limiting those opportunities. But at the same time, we kill four or five penalties, and they’re going to get some looks through that, and Dom was solid in net.”
The win gives Youngstown some breathing room and opens their lead over Cedar Rapids for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference back to five points with 12 games remaining for the Phantoms and 15 remaining for the RoughRiders. The Phantoms host Dubuque at the Covelli Centre next weekend in a Friday-Saturday series. Puck drop both nights is scheduled for 7:05pm Eastern and the games will be broadcast on HockeyTV and Western Reserve Radio.
By the Numbers
Shots – 29
Saves – 31
Power Play – 1/2
Penalty Kill – 5/5
Goals – DeLuca, Dobay, Kuntar
Assists – Ando, Beaton, Cassidy, Merkulov, Schoen (2)