YOUNGSTOWN, OH – Energy right from puck drop led to an early goal as the Youngstown Phantoms never trailed in knocking off the Dubuque Fighting Saints 3-1 in Game One of their Eastern Conference Semifinal Friday night at the Covelli Centre.
“I liked our pursuit right off the get-go,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “Everyone up front was moving their feet, and our ‘D’ did a good job with pucks and we got some chances off that.”
A great defensive play helped stake Youngstown to an early lead. Mike Regush picked off a clearing attempt by Dubuque and slid the puck to Matt Barry. Barry walked into the left circle and drew the defensive to him before slipping a pass to Chase Gresock in the slot. Gresock beat Cole Weaver (30 saves) with a one-timer to put the Phantoms ahead just 1:07 into the game. “That was huge,” said Patterson. “You want to get chances, and it’s nice to see one go in the back of the net early. It stems from moving your feet and making simple plays, and those were two of the big keys for us tonight.”
Just when it looked like Dubuque might tie the game, the Phantoms doubled their lead. After Quinn Preston fired a shot off the post behind Ivan Prosvetov, the rebound came all the way out to the neutral zone for Eric Esposito to play ahead to Nicholas Cardelli. Cardelli carried the puck down the right wing into the corner and fired a centering pass that hit a few Dubuque sticks before settling down for Joey Abate. Abate walked across the net mouth and fired a backhander that was stopped by Weaver, but he couldn’t control the rebound and Abate lifted it over him into the net to give Youngstown a 2-0 lead at 17:05.
Youngstown scored early in the second to extend their lead. Steve Holtz pumped a shot toward net from the right point, and Barry was camped out at the edge of the crease with his stick on the ice to deflect it home at 1:25, putting the Phantoms ahead 3-0. “That’s where you’re going to get them in the playoffs,” said Patterson. “It’s not always going to be pretty, but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day.”
Dubuque got its lone tally on a power play goal at 18:39 of the second. Preston was cutting through the low slot and was able to one-touch the puck past Prosvetov and get the Saints on the board. Dubuque pulled Weaver from the net with 2:05 remaining in regulation, but they were unable to sustain any pressure in the Youngstown end to draw any closer.
Youngstown leads the best-of-five Eastern Conference Semifinal one-game-to-none. In the six games that the Saints and Phantoms have played in the playoffs, the home team has won every contest. Game Two is scheduled for Saturday night with a 7:05pm Eastern puck drop, and broadcasts will be available live on HockeyTV and YPHR, presented by Marco’s Pizza.
By the Numbers
Shots – 34
Saves – 33
Power Play – 0/3
Penalty Kill – 5/6
Goals – Abate, Barry, Gresock
Assists – Barry, Cardelli, Esposito, Gingell, Holtz, Regush
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