CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – Ivan Kulbakov stopped all 26 Cedar Rapids shots he faced to record his fourth shutout of the year as the Youngstown Phantoms (31-18-4-1, 67 points) downed the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 3-0 at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena on Friday night.
“It was a tough game,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Cedar (Rapids) came out, had a lot of jump, had a really good push from the start. Very tight checking game…I thought we did a very good job of limiting chances.”
After a scoreless first period, Coale Norris put Youngstown up 1-0 early in the second period with his 14th goal of the season. Picking up the puck deep in his defensive zone, Norris outraced four Cedar Rapids defenders down the left side and beat Zach LaRocque (20 saves) with a wrist shot from the left dot at 1:02. “Once (Coale) gets his feet going, he’s tough to stop,” said Patterson. “(Moving his feet) is something he’s really keyed on over the last two or three months, and he’s seen immediate success and dividends from doing that.”
Michael Karow blasted a half-slapper through traffic from the left point at 3:21 of the third period to give the Phantoms a 2-0 lead, and Pierce Crawford added an empty net goal at 19:47 to make up the final margin. Karow’s goal was his third of the season and Crawford’s was his 17th, third since being acquired from the Omaha Lancers in late-February.
Earning the win and the shutout, Kulbakov’s record improved to 27-16-4-1 on the season. His fourth shutout draws him to within one of Sean Romeo’s team record of five, set during the 2012-13 season. Romeo also holds the club record for wins with 31, also set during the 2012-13 season.
The win allowed Youngstown to remain one point ahead of the Green Bay Gamblers and hold on to the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Phantoms’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to eight. Youngstown has two games in hand on Green bay. The Phantoms’ win eliminated the Bloomington Thunder from playoff contention.
Youngstown and Cedar Rapids wrap up their two-game series Saturday night with puck drop scheduled for 8:05pm Eastern and the game will be broadcast on HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 23
Saves – 26
Power Play – 0/2
Penalty Kill – 3/3
Goals – Norris, Karow, Crawford
Assists – Apap, E. Esposito, Hall, Wisocky
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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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