YOUNGSTOWN, OH – Trailing by two with 19 minutes left in the game, the Youngstown Phantoms (10-29-5-2, 27 points) scored the final three goals of the game, including the game-winner with 1:14 left in overtime to top the Muskegon Lumberjacks 4-3 Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
“I’m glad the guys found a way to get a win tonight,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “They definitely deserved it.”
After a scoreless first period, Muskegon broke the ice just 12 seconds into the second frame with a tap in goal from Tanner Kelly. Youngstown responded later in the period when Winter Wallace redirected Mike Rubin’s shot past Jan Skorpik (25 saves), tying the game at 12:10. “Winter has been a big piece for us, and will be moving forward,” said Patterson. “Big guy who skates as well as anyone, he’s really hard to contain.”
Muskegon scored the next two goals of the game, coming less than three minutes apart, but separated by the second intermission. Cristophe Tellier scored his second goal of the weekend, this one a power play goal at 18:43 of the second to put the Lumberjacks back in front. Tellier scored nine goals in the 12 games Muskegon played against Youngstown this season. Fifty-one seconds into the third period, Danil Gushchin fired home a one-timer to give the Jacks a 3-1 advantage.
Youngstown answered back just under two minutes later to cut the Muskegon lead back to one. Sergei Kuznetzov’s sweeping wrister found its way through Skorpik’s five-hole for a power play goal at 2:40, getting Youngstown back within a goal at 3-2. Pretty passing from Jack Malone and Yusaku Ando led to Jaden Grant firing home a power play goal at 15:39, tying the game. “Jaden is a leader, he does everything the right way,” said Patterson. “He’s a big piece of what we have.”
“That was a set play, something that we’ve been working on in practice,” said Malone. “We wanted to attack from down low, I saw Ando open. He made a great play, found Grant in the pocket in the slot, and (Grant) made no mistake and put it home.”
After the tying goal, Muskegon really turned up the pressive in the Phantoms defensive end, but Mattias Sholl (36 saves) held the Lumberjacks off the board to force overtime. “Sholl was great, but specifically that last two or three minutes,” said Patterson. “He made some big, big stops there. He makes big stops every night, it’s almost like we’ve become accustom to it. Very athletic goaltender. Great kid. I’m super happy for him tonight.”
Muskegon almost won the game in the first minute of overtime with a 2-on-1 rush, but Sholl denied Nick Portz at the right post to keep the game going. Later in the frame, Malone carried the puck into the Muskegon zone, cut all the way across the ice from left to right and walked towards the net. With Grant in front creating a screen, Malone snapped a shot over Skorpik’s shoulder and into the twine for the game winning goal.
“Slower play, it seemed to be, as I took it over the line there,” said Malone. “I saw some ice, took it, found myself near the slot. Threw it on the net, it went in.”
The loss for Muskegon, coupled with a Chicago win, locked the Lumberjacks into the number two seed in the Eastern Conference for the start of the Clark Cup Playoffs in two weeks. Chicago clinched the number one seed and the Anderson Cup with their overtime win tonight over Green Bay. Youngstown concludes its season next weekend with three games at the Covelli Centre against Team USA. The NTDP is right in the thick of the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, mere percentage points behind the Dubuque Fighting Saints for the fourth and final spot. All three puck drops next week are scheduled for 7:05pm.
By the Numbers
Shots – 29
Saves – 36
Power Play – 2/4
Penalty Kill – 3/4
Goals – Grant, Kuznetzov, Malone, Wallace
Assists – Ando, Brown, Malone, May (2), Merkulov, Rubin