YOUNGSTOWN, OH – The Youngstown Phantoms (7-5-2-1, 17 points) scored five goals over an eight-minute span of the second period and never looked backed as they downed the Muskegon Lumberjacks 7-3 Wednesday night at the Covelli Centre.
“I thought from an execution standpoint, obviously offensively we were on point,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “When we did get ‘Grade A’ chances they ended up in the back of the net. That was something we were really talking about in practice, you only get so many of them in a game, make them count. That being said, you also don’t want to give up 40 shots.”
After a scoreless first period, Youngstown’s offense exploded for five straight goals. Alex Barber’s second goal of the year kicked things off at 4:42; Barber floated a wrist shot through traffic from the top of the left circle that beat Adam Brizgala (10 saves) and gave Youngstown a 1-0 lead. Matthew Barry doubled that lead at 8:08 when he stole a puck from the Lumberjacks right in front of their net and tucked a backhander just under the crossbar for his fourth goal of the campaign.
The Phantoms got a power play goal for their third goal of the game. Eric Esposito fired home a centering pass from Mike Regush at the end of a tic-tac-toe passing play by the Youngstown special teams. For Esposito, the goal came at 10:50 and was his fourth of the season.
The fourth Youngstown goal came off a rush. Max Ellis found Curtis Hall streaking down the left side, creating a 2-on-1 with Chase Gresock. Hall elected to shoot the puck from the left dot and beat Brizgala at 12:18 cleanly with a wrist shot for his eighth goal of the year. Muskegon called their timeout after Hall’s goal to attempt to regroup, but just nine seconds after the ensuing faceoff the Phantoms made it 5-0. Esposito took a pass from Regush at center, carried into the Muskegon end, and loosed a wrister from the left dot past Brizgala for his second goal of the night, fifth of the season. After the second Espostio goal, Muskegon Head Coach John LaFontaine pulled Brizgala in favor of Keegan Karki (8 saves).
The Lumberjacks finally stopped the Phantoms scoring run at 18:08 when Clayton Phillips fired a wrist shot from the top of the left circle through traffic and past Wouter Peeters (38 saves) to get Muskegon on the board. Marc Del Gaizo cut further into the Phantoms’ lead at 6:38 of the third period when he got a slap shot from the left point through traffic and in for his first goal of the year.
Just when it seemed that Muskegon was gaining momentum, Youngstown scored two more goals to remove any doubt from the contest. Matt Thomson scored his league-leading sixth power play goal at 8:29 to put the Phantoms up 6-2, and Ellis tapped home a wonderful pass from Gresock at 9:47 for the final Youngstown goal of the night and a 7-2 lead. Anthony Del Gaizo scored with 1:01 remaining in regulation to make up the final margin, tucking one just inside the left post around Peeters’ right leg.
Peeters earned the win, his first in the USHL, making several big saves early before his offense allowed him to coast to victory. “I thought Wouter Peeters was terrific in net,” said Patterson. “I hope this is a confidence builder for him.”
Youngstown returns to the ice on Friday night as they travel back to Bloomington to take on the Central Illinois Flying Aces for the first of a two-game weekend set. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:07 PM Eastern on Friday night and broadcasts will be available on WJBC.com and HockeyTv.
By the Numbers
Shots – 25
Saves – 28
Power Play – 2/5
Penalty Kill – 4/4
Goals – Barber, Barry, Ellis, Esposito (2), Hall, Thomson
Assists – Barry (2), Ellis, Hall, Gresock, Kislin, Malone, Metsa, Petrillo, Regush (2)
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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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