GREEN BAY, WI – Three straight goals in the second period paced the Youngstown Phantoms (27-18-5-1, 60 points) to a 3-2 win over the Green Bay Gamblers Friday night at the Resch Center.
“I thought we had some big efforts from a lot of players who maybe didn’t show up on the score sheet,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “We were able to put a few on the board and close it out, so I’m very happy.”
After a scoreless first period, all five goals in the game were scored in the second period. Green Bay led things off with a Noah Prokop goal at 3:30, but Youngstown answered right back at 7:12 when Jack Malone fired home a rebound from Joey Abate for his second goal of the season to knot things up at 1-1. Jordan Harris was credited with an assist on the goal as well, the first USHL point for the highly-touted defenseman out of Massachusetts. “Jordan has looked good,” said Patterson. “He’s fit in great with the team…his learning on the fly has been tremendous, he’s a very cerebral player, he’s got great feet and he’s able to defend, his feet are always in the right position. Every game he’s getting a little bit better.”
The Phantoms took the lead at 10:02. Matt Barry got lost in traffic behind the net and was left alone at the left post. Mike Regush fired Barry a wonderful cross-ice pass from the right point and Barry emphatically fired home the shot for his 14th goal of the year, giving Youngstown a 2-1 lead. “Matt was great tonight,” said Patterson. “Any time he’s got the puck he’s dangerous…that goal doesn’t happen if we don’t get in on that forecheck prior to that…I thought Matt did a very good job being the first guy in on the forecheck and creating turnovers.”
Youngstown stretched the lead to 3-1 with a powerplay goal at 11:42. Eric Esposito knocked his own rebound out of midair and past Maksim Zhukov for his 14th marker of the campaign to give the Phantoms the two-goal advantage.
Green Bay struck back with a powerplay goal of their own. Youngstown netminder Ivan Prosvetov thought he had the puck covered at the mouth of the crease, but Nolan Moyle lodged the puck loose and poked it through Prosvetov’s five hole at 13:34 to get the Gamblers within one at 3-2. Green Bay pulled Zhukov with 57 seconds left in regulation as they looked for the equalizer, but Youngstown held on for the victory.
The win kept the Phantoms two points ahead of the Muskegon Lumberjacks for second place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. Youngstown’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to seven by virtue of their victory and the overtime loss by Cedar Rapids.
Youngstown and Green Bay wrap up their season series tomorrow night with puck drop scheduled for 8:05pm Eastern. The Phantoms and Gamblers only play three times this season, and each team will be looking for the series win in case a tie-breaker is needed for playoff seeding. The game will be broadcast on HockeyTV and mixLR.
By the Numbers
Shots – 23
Saves – 36
Power Play – 1/3
Penalty Kill – 0/1
Goals – Barry, Esposito, Malone
Assists – Abate, Ellis, Hall, Harris, Larkin, Regush
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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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