BLOOMINGTON, IL – Trailing 2-0 at the end of 40 minutes of play, the Youngstown Phantoms (3-4-2-1, 9 points) came back to force overtime and a shootout against the Central Illinois Flying Aces at Grossinger Motors Arena on Friday night. Youngstown won the shootout 2-0 to earn a 3-2 victory over their Eastern Conference rival.
“I liked the fact that all game we had energy,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “I thought the execution was there for the most part. We were getting chances, and when you’re getting those, for the most part, they’re bound to go in.”
Central Illinois struck first, scoring the opening goal with just over a minute remaining in the first period. After a steal at his own blue line, Kyler Head lead a 3-on-1 rush down ice. Deciding to shoot the puck himself, Head beat Ivan Prosvetov (33 saves) with a blocker-side wrist shot at 18:29 for his first USHL goal and a 1-0 Flying Aces lead. The Aces doubled their lead at 15:06 of the second period when Drew Elser found some room between Prosvetov’s arm and the post for his sixth of the year and a 2-0 Central Illinois advantage.
Youngstown got on the board inside the first minute of the third period, thanks to the fourth goal of the campaign from Matthew Thomson. Thomson blasted a half-slapper from the right circle for a power play goal 48 seconds into the final period of regulation to cut the Central Illinois lead in half. “He’s a scoring threat from anywhere on the ice,” said Patterson. “Great execution as a unit.”
The Phantoms tied the game at 6:09 off the stick of Gianfranco Cassaro. Cassaro wristed a puck on net from the left point, and his shot eluded Zach Stejskal (24 saves) and Youngstown evened things up at 2 on Cassaro’s second goal of the year.
Youngstown appeared to have taken the lead with just under six minutes remaining in regulation, but the officials ruled that Curtis Hall knocked the puck into the net with a high stick, disallowing the goal. Neither team was able to score in the remainder of the third and the game went to overtime.
It only took 29 seconds of overtime for the Phantoms to find themselves in hot water. While battling for a puck below his goal line, Craig Needham was given a four-minute high sticking penalty. The Aces managed five shots on goal during the four-minute penalty, but could not get one past Prosvetov, and the game went to the shootout. “We talked to our ‘killers’ about how we’re going to execute, what we’re going to look for, a couple of keys…they did a great job, everyone out there executed,” said Patterson.
In the skills competition, Tommy Parrottino and Max Ellis converted on their chances for Youngstown, while Elser and Tyler Madden failed to convert on their attempts for Central Illinois, giving Youngstown the victory.
The Phantoms travel north to do battle with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the first of a two-game set tomorrow night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:15pm Eastern and broadcasts will be available on Muskegon’s 92.5 Nash Icon and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 26
Saves – 33
Power Play – 1/2
Penalty Kill – 1/1
Goals – Cassaro, Thomson
Assists – Barber, Barry, Joyaux, Metsa
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Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 16th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2017-18. 49 players were chosen in the 2017 NHL Draft and more than 400 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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