YOUNGSTOWN, OH – Two goals for the visitors just over thirty seconds apart early in the third period spelled doom for the Youngstown Phantoms (31-20-5-1, 68 points) Friday night at the Covelli Centre as they fell 4-1 to the Lincoln Stars, dealing a serious blow to their playoff hopes.
“It stings for sure,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “For how much we were around the net it’s frustrating not to get more than one up on the board.”
Lincoln took a 1-0 lead at 13:04 of the first period on Christian Evers’ eighth goal of the season. With the Stars on the power play, Evers blasted a one-timer from center point that beat Ivan Kulbakov (17 saves) clean to the glove side.
Youngstown tied the game with a power play goal of their own at 19:19 of the second period. Evan Wisocky made a beautiful shot-pass to Alex Esposito on the back door, but Esposito’s initial redirect was stopped by Josef Korenar (27 saves). Korenar was not able to cover the rebound however, and Esposito ended up poking it into the net for his 15th goal of the year, knotting the game at 1.
Carter Long gave Lincoln a 2-1 lead with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle at 2:46 of the third period. With no traffic in front, Kulbakov seemed to have the soft wrist shot measured, but the puck ticked off the top of Kulbakov’s right pad and into the net. “I can’t fault Ivan for that,” said Patterson. “He makes numerous grade ‘A’ saves a game, and for one like that go to in, it stings him just as much as it stings us.” The goal was Long’s first in the USHL. Lincoln stretched their lead to 3-1 just 31 seconds later when Chayse Primeau banged home his own rebound after his wrap around attempt was shut off by Kulbakov. Brandon Schultz’s empty netter at 18:28 made up the final margin.
The loss, coupled with Green Bay’s 4-2 win over the Madison Capitols, means that the Phantoms need the Gamblers to lose at least one of their two remaining games in order for Youngstown to have hope of making the playoffs. Green Bay has a two-point lead on the Phantoms, but Youngstown has a game in hand, which they will make up tomorrow night when they take on the Stars once more. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm eastern and broadcasts will be available on HockeyTV and YPHR.
By the Numbers
Shots – 28
Saves – 17
Power Play – 1/4
Penalty Kill – 1/2
Goals – A. Esposito
Assists – Wisocky, Mahalak
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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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