MUSKEGON, MI – Four goals scored over a six-and-a-half-minute span of the second period gave the Muskegon Lumberjacks a 4-1 lead that they would not relinquish as they downed the Youngstown Phantoms (14-14-4-1, 33 points) 5-3 Friday night at LC Walker Arena. The Phantoms have lost four in a row and 11 of their last 14.
“(Tonight was) very frustrating,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “We had a great week of practice, and I felt like the first 20 minutes the pace definitely wasn’t there. We found ways to make a few mistakes, and it’s just too tight of a league to do that.”
Youngstown opened the scoring just over two-and-a-half-minutes into the game. Mike Regush knocked a Muskegon forward off the puck along the right wall in the Muskegon zone. The puck rolled to Matt Barry, who fired a backhand pass to Chase Gresock. Gresock snapped a wrist shot past Keegan Karki (24 saves) to give the Phantoms the lead. The goal was Gresock’s team-leading 14th goal of the year and put Youngstown ahead 1-0 at the first intermission despite being outshot 21-8 in the opening frame.
Muskegon, however, scored four unanswered goals in the second period to jump ahead. Anthony Del Gaizo scored a power play goal at 4:59, Vincent de May converted a nifty backhand shot at 5:27, Bobby Kaiser scored on the breakaway after escaping the penalty box at 9:28, and Emilio Pettersen tallied a shorthanded goal at 11:05 to put the Lumberjacks ahead by three. After the fourth Muskegon goal, Patterson called his timeout. “I told them there’s plenty of time left to work, to get back. We talked about the next shift, a couple keys moving forward. Stopped, took a deep breath, told them we had time and bodies to do it.”
The timeout paid immediate dividends, as the Phantoms scored 18 seconds later. Eric Esposito had a shot redirect off his shin pad and past Karki at 11:23 to get Youngstown back within two at the second intermission. Esposito’s goal came on the power play and was his ninth of the campaign, drawing the Phantoms within 4-2.
The Phantoms drew one closer at 12:12 of the third period. Regush took a pass from Barry as they entered the zone, walked right down the slot, deked to his backhand, and fired the puck past Karki for his eighth goal of the season, making it a one goal game at 4-3. Youngstown was unable to tie the game, however, and Del Gaizo scored on the empty net in the waning moments to make up the final margin.
Youngstown returns home tomorrow night to open up a two-game series against the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Puck drop on Saturday night is scheduled for 7:05 pm Eastern and the game will be broadcast on YPHR and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 27
Saves – 38
Power Play – 1/4
Penalty Kill – 2/3
Goals – Esposito, Gresock, Regush
Assists – Barry (2), Cassaro, Esposito, Joyaux
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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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