YOUNGSTOWN, OH – A three-goal third period for the Youngstown Phantoms (22-15-4-1, 49 points) broke a 2-2 tie and pushed Youngstown over the Waterloo Black Hawks 5-2 Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
“I felt like it was probably the best game intensity-wise, physicality-wise, skill-wise, you name it, the fans were in for a treat tonight,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Waterloo’s a great team, and that’s playoff hockey. I can’t use it for other games now because that, that right there set the bar.”
After a scoreless first period, Waterloo broke the ice with a power play goal at the 3:15 mark of the second. Ben Copeland snapped a wrist shot from the left circle past Ivan Prosvetov (27 saves) to put the Hawks in front 1-0. Youngstown answered back just over a minute later at 4:25 when Joey Abate poked a loose puck into the net for his fourth goal of the season, tying things up at 1-1.
The Black Hawks regained the lead at 10:07 thanks to a Jackson Cates goal, but Waterloo would not hold the lead for long. Eric Esposito fired one home at 11:30 from three feet out for his 12th goal of the season to knot things up at 2-2. Max Ellis made the play happen, holding the puck in the right corner for several seconds, fending off a trio of Waterloo defenders before forcing the biscuit free and over to Curtis Hall, who passed to Esposito for the score.
Youngstown went ahead at 12:28 of the third period off another net-front scramble. After Matej Tomek (27 saves) stopped Esposito’s initial shot, the rebound went to Hall for a shot, Hall’s rebound went to Ellis, and he slid it under Tomek’s left leg for his 11th goal of the season, giving Youngstown a 3-2 lead. Dalton Messina swatted a rebound out of mid-air, off the back of Tomek and into the net at 15:19 for his first goal as a Phantom, third of the year, and a 4-2 Youngstown lead. Chase Gresock made up the final tally at 16:24 with his team-leading 20th goal of the season, blasting a one-timer past Tomek from the left circle.
The Phantoms have won their last five games at home and have two games remaining on this five-game homestand. The victory pushes the Phantoms into a first-place tie with Team USA, but the Nationals have six games in-hand on Youngstown. The Phantoms return to action Thursday night as they’ll entertain the top team in the Western Conference, the Omaha Lancers. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm and the game will be broadcast on YPHR and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 32
Saves – 27
Power Play – 0/4
Penalty Kill – 6/7
Goals – Abate, Ellis, Esposito, Gresock, Messina
Assists – Abate, Ellis, Esposito, Hall (2), Kuntar, Larkin, Messina, Malone (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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