YOUNGSTOWN, OH – It’s been a hectic week for Pierce Crawford. After learning of his trade from the Omaha Lancers to the Youngstown Phantoms on Monday, Crawford traveled over 1,500 miles and played in two games for a new team. “I had a little bit of an idea (that I would be traded),” said Crawford. “Omaha was really good to me and really up front. They’re a first-class organization. I’m really excited to being here in Youngstown and being in playoff contention.” Crawford had an assist scored the lone goal in the shootout to give the Phantoms (26-14-4-1, 57 points) a 3-2 win over the U.S. National Team Development Program’s U17 squad Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
“It was a nail-biter I’m sure,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “I’m sure the fans enjoyed it. I’m proud of the boys for getting two points tonight.”
Youngstown got out to a 1-0 lead late in the first period, largely due to an effort by Crawford. Stealing a puck in the defensive end, Crawford chipped the puck down ice and raced around a USA defender. From the right wing corner, Crawford centered for Coale Norris, who redirected the pass into the net for his 13th goal of the season. “I’m sure the fans are going to learn to love (Crawford),” said Patterson.
After Tyler Weiss tied the game for Team USA just 38 seconds into the second period, Austin Pooley gave the Phantoms back the lead at 8:40. While on the penalty kill, Pooley stole a pass in the neutral zone and rushed up ice, creating a 2-on-1 with Alex Esposito. While Esposito opened up for the shot, Pooley rifled a wrister over the right shoulder of USA netminder Ryan Ullan (32 saves) to give Youngstown a 2-1 lead. The goal was Pooley’s 16th of the year and tied him for the team lead with Nicolas Werbik.
USA tied it at 2 at 12:07 with a power play goal from Jonathan Gruden, who backhanded a rebound over a prone Ivan Kulbakov (22 saves). The power play goal was just the second for the U17’s in 21 USHL games this year (67 attempts).
After a scoreless third period and an equally fruitless overtime, the game headed to a shootout. In the shootout, Max Ellis and Alex Esposito were stopped on their attempts and Pooley rang his shot off the crossbar in the third round. For USA, Oliver Wahlstrom and Jake Pivonka were both stopped in the first two rounds by Kulbakov and Joel Farabee’s attempt in the third round missed the net. After Kulbakov stopped Spencer Stastney in the top of the fourth round, it was Crawford’s turn. Crawford picked up the puck at center ice, swung out to the right, and the left-handed shooter loosed a wrist shot that tucked just inside the top left corner of the net to give the Phantoms the victory.
With the win and a Muskegon overtime loss to Chicago, Youngstown now sits alone in third place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference with 15 games remaining in the regular season for the Phantoms. Youngstown returns to the ice next Friday night as they continue their seven-game homestand with the first of two games against the Fargo Force. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm Eastern and broadcasts will be available on YPHR and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 34
Saves – 22
Power Play – 0/4
Penalty Kill – 2/3
Goals – Norris, Pooley
Assists – Crawford
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Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 players were chosen in the 2016 NHL Draft and more than 402 players on team rosters this season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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