YOUNGSTOWN, OH – The first USHL goal for Craig Needham proved to be the game winner as the Youngstown Phantoms (26-18-4-1, 57 points) downed the Des Moines Buccaneers 4-1 Friday night at the Covelli Centre.
“Craig is a Phantom,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “He does everything the right way. He doesn’t always get rewarded on the scoresheet, but when he does it’s usually at a very key point in the game…For Craig to do that is huge for our team and he’s very, very deserving of that.” Needham’s goal came 2:36 into the second period, putting the Phantoms in front for good.
Youngstown jumped out to a 1-0 lead before the game was even two minutes old. While a puck battle was going on in the right corner, former Buccaneer Tommy Parrottino came late down the slot, took the centering pass from Nick Cardelli, and beat Jake Kucharski (31 saves) at 1:41 for his 13th goal of the season, giving Youngstown the early advantage.
Just as former Buccaneer Parrottino scored for the Phantoms, it was a former Phantom lighting the lamp for Des Moines. Nic Werbik used a defenseman as a screen and snapped a wrist shot from the right half-wall past Wouter Peeters (22 saves) at 7:09 to tie things up at 1-1. It was Werbik’s 20th of the season, two more than he scored last year with Youngstown.
After ending the first period in a 1-1 tie, Needham put the Phantoms in front. The play began with a Liam Dennison shot from the point being redirected on net by Jack Malone. The rebound popped up in the air and settled behind Kucharski in the blue paint, and Needham was at the side of the cage to poke the puck across the goal line.
Youngstown had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:05 shortly after the Needham goal, but were unable to convert, their best chance coming when Parrottino fired a shot off the crossbar. Just when it seemed like Des Moines was going to use the kill to snatch the momentum back, the Phantoms capitalized on another net-front scramble to double their lead. Kucharski thought he had the puck covered on the right side of the crease, but the puck had bounced away from him to the net mouth, and Max Ellis was able to backhand it home for his 13th marker of the year, putting Youngstown ahead 3-1 at 10:57. “As it goes it gets a little harder and harder to score,” said Patterson. “Those are where the majority of the goals are going to be going in (from) and for us to be able to see that and teach from that, the guys see that and it’s good for them.”
Lately no Phantom game would be complete without the BGR line showing up on the scoresheet, and they did just that at 16:43 of the third. Chase Gresock shoveled the puck past Kucharski from the edge of the crease for his 22nd goal of the season, giving Youngstown a 4-1 lead and making up the final margin.
The Phantoms and Bucs return to the Covelli Centre to wrap up their season series tomorrow night for Pink in the Rink night at the Covelli Centre. Youngstown will be wearing specialty jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game with proceeds going to support the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm Eastern, and the game will be broadcast on YPHR and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 39
Saves – 22
Power Play – 0/4
Penalty Kill – 2/2
Goals – Ellis, Gresock, Needham, Parrottino
Assists – Barry, Cardelli, Dennison, Malone, Messina, Parrottino, Regush, Smallidge
For all the latest news, follow the Phantoms on Twitter (@YtownPhantoms) and ‘Like’ them on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/YoungstownPhantoms). A full version of the Phantoms 2017-18 season schedule, as well as season tickets and mini-plan packages, is available now by visiting www.YoungstownPhantoms.com. Ticket packages can also be purchased by calling (330) 747-PUCK.
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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