YOUNGSTOWN, OH – A pair of goals from Connor MacEachern and an overtime winner from Steve Holtz helped propel the Youngstown Phantoms (14-12-0-3, 31 points) to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Sioux City Musketeers Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
“Another hard-fought game against a team that’s extremely structured, extremely coached-well,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “We didn’t get a whole lot of opportunities, and the message at the end of the game was ‘we might only get one (goal), we may only get two, but we’ve got to capitalize on it, and credit to our guys they did.”
Youngstown struck first, converting a 2-on-1 rush just 2:40 into the game. Brett Murray bumped a pass up the near boards to Jack Malone who took off down ice towards the Sioux City zone. Drawing the defense to him, Malone slid the puck across the ice and found a wide-open Nikolai Jenson on the far post for the tap-in goal, Jenson’s first in the USHL giving the Phantoms the 1-0 lead.
Sioux City scored the next three to grab a two-goal lead. Albin Nilsson snapped a wrist shot from the left circle past Chad Veltri (21 saves) at 13:19 of the first period tying the game at 1-1. Parker Ford sneaked in the back door during a delayed penalty situation at 9:50 of the second, beating Veltri with a one-timer from the left circle to put the Musketeers ahead 2-1, and Brady Smith rifled a shot over Veltri’s shoulder, just under the cross bar and in at 12:04 to put Sioux City ahead 3-1.
Youngstown started on the comeback trail just minutes later at 14:55. MacEachern snapped a wrist shot from the top of the left circle past the blocker of Jake Sibell (23 saves) for a power play goal that cut the Sioux City lead to 3-2, and that’s where the score remained until 19:45 of the third period. With Veltri on the bench for the extra attacker and time winding down, MacEachern used chaos in front of the net to fire another wrister from the left circle into the twine, tying the game at 3-3 with just 15.2 seconds left in regulation. “(Connor) is so contagious, he loves the game so much, he loves the players so much, the guys just feed off of him,” said Patterson. “He’s so exciting to be around and guys loves doing things for him, I’m really happy for him.”
Sioux City controlled the opening faceoff in overtime, but turned the puck over late in the first shift to Malone. Murray had sneaked behind the Sioux City defense and Malone found him with an outlet pass. Murray went speeding into the Sioux City right to the edge of the crease, forcing a backhander on net. Sibell slid to his left to stop Murray, but the rebound had settled in the crease and Holtz was right there to poke the puck home just 40 seconds into the extra frame to give the Phantoms the victory. “(Steve) deserves it,” said Patterson. “He’s had some back luck (with injuries), but through the course of all of it he's come back, not only has he not really played in 60 days, but there wasn’t a ton of 100% practice. He was able to keep himself in shape in other fashions. He was able to step in and play some big minutes. We lose Liam Dennison, he’s got a little bit of a flu bug, so to miss some big minutes on the back and to fill it with Steven coming right back, he steps in in overtime, it’s a big, big goal.”
The victory gives Youngstown their first three-game winning streak of the season and also puts the Phantoms more than one game over .500 for the first time as well. The Phantoms look to continue their winning ways as they embark on a three-game road trip, starting next Friday night in Chicago. Puck drop between the Phantoms and Steel is scheduled for 8:05pm Eastern and the game will be available on HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 27
Saves – 21
Power Play – 1/3
Penalty Kill – 4/4
Goals – Holtz, Jenson, MacEachern (2)
Assists – Cassaro (2), Malone (2), Murray (2), Schoen