PLYMOUTH, MI – Two goals by Oliver Wahlstrom and 20 saves from Spenser Knight helped push the United States National Team Development Program’s U18 squad past the Youngstown Phantoms (22-18-4-1, 49 points) 4-1 Sunday afternoon at USA Hockey Arena.
“The more that game went, I felt like we didn’t have a lot of push back,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “They’re a team that takes away time and space through the neutral, and even in their own end, and they’re always jumping guys into rushes. They’re tough to manage, but we didn’t have a lot of push back, especially in the second, and it hurt.”
USA scored early in the first period to take a 1-0 lead. Top 2019 NHL Draft prospect Jack Hughes danced through a pair of Phantom defenders in front of the net and slipped a backhander around Wouter Peeters (35 saves) at 4:34 to give the NTDP the early advantage.
The Nationals scored a pair in the second to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Wahlstrom got his first of the night at 6:51, redirecting a K’Andre Miller slap shot past Peeters, and Jon Gruden managed to shovel a puck between Peeters’ right pad and the post at 15:30. Wahlstrom scored his second of the night 4:11 into the third, walking right down the slot and using a backhand-forehand deke to beat Peeters and put the U18’s up 4-0.
Youngstown got on the board with a power play tally at 13:47. Trevor Kuntar tapped home a rebound after a Liam Dennison slap shot from the left point redirected off Craig Needham in front and right to Kuntar for the easy tap in. “I was really happy that Trevor showed up on the scoresheet,” said Patterson. “These past few week Trevor has had some outstanding efforts for us. The statistics don’t always tell the story. I think since Christmas he’s gradually come on for us, he was good tonight.” It was Kuntar’s second goal of his rookie campaign and cut the USA lead to 4-1, but two late penalties dashed any hope for a Phantom comeback.
Despite the 0-3 weekend, Youngstown remains one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, joining Muskegon and Green Bay as teams that have six wins in their last 10 tries. Only Team USA has a better mark amongst Eastern Conference teams, going 8-2. The Phantoms remain in third place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Dubuque and one point ahead of Muskegon.
Youngstown travels to Wisconsin and Illinois next weekend as they’ll battle the Madison Capitols on Friday and Saturday before stopping off in Chicago to battle the Steel on their way back to Youngstown. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:05pm Eastern on Friday, 7:05pm Eastern Saturday, and 4:05pm Eastern Sunday. All games will be broadcast on HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 21
Saves – 35
Power Play – 1/2
Penalty Kill – 3/3
Goals – Kuntar
Assists – Dennison, Needham
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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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