YOUNGSTOWN, OH – The Youngstown Phantoms (16-13-1-3, 36 points) put on an impressive defensive performance Friday night at the Covelli Centre, holding an opponent to one goal-or-fewer for just the third time this season as they knocked off the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders by a score of 2-1.
“I thought it was a muddy game kind of both ways,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “I don’t know if that was because of the defensive effort on both sides, but I really like how we rebounded in the second period. I thought in the first we were reluctant to put pucks behind their ‘D’. We were just settling for being in the right position, and at this stage (of the season) you have to have pressure on the puck, and it felt like as the game went, we got much better.”
Despite the timid play in the first, Youngstown did manage to grab an early lead, striking 72 seconds into the contest. Trevor Kuntar threw a pass from the right corner to the front of the crease and Craig Needham deflected it past Troy Kobryn (18 saves) for his 10th goal of the year, putting the Phantoms on top. “Craig plays the right way all the time,” said Patterson. “He’s not that ‘wow’ guy offensively, but at the end of the day he does all those little things that need to be done in a hockey game and he often goes unnoticed, so I’m very happy that he’s showing up on the scoresheet. He’s a leader in our room and really drives the bus for us.”
A Nathan Smith powerplay goal tied the game for Cedar Rapids at 6:53 of the first, and it remained tied until the Phantoms struck for another early-period goal. Just 49 seconds into the second period, with the Phantoms on the penalty kill, Gianfranco Cassaro stole the puck in his own end and cleared it down ice right to Kobryn. Kobyrn tried a breakout pass, but ended up throwing it right to Cassaro, who ended the Cedar Rapids zone and loosed a wrister from the top of the left circle, beating Kobryn over the right shoulder for his sixth goal of the year, this one shorthanded, putting Youngstown ahead for good. “(Gianfranco) isn’t afraid to shoot it,” said Patterson. “That’s a thing that coaches love: he loves to pull the trigger, and often when it does it ends up in the back of the net.”
The Youngstown defense held firm for the remaining 39:11 of game action, backstopped by Christian Stoever’s 24 saves. Brett Murray saw his 14-game point streak snapped by failing to get on the scoresheet. Murray had a chance late in the third with Kobryn on the bench for the extra attacker and an empty net in front of him, but Murray’s pass to Jack Malone was broken up by the Cedar Rapids defense, denying the scoring chance.
Youngstown and Cedar Rapids wrap up their season series Saturday night at the Covelli Centre with an earlier start time of 5:05pm due the complications presented by Winter Storm Harper. Youngstown currently holds a 2-1 season series lead over the RoughRiders, so Saturday’s game could be a key tie-breaking moment come playoff time as the Phantoms and RoughRiders are currently neck-and-neck in the standings. Broadcasts of the game will be available on Western Reserve Radio and HockeyTV. Be sure to stay tuned to YoungstownPhantoms.com and all of the Phantoms’ social media accounts for any further updates on the status of Saturday’s game.
By the Numbers
Shots – 20
Saves – 24
Power Play – 0/2
Penalty Kill – 3/4
Goals – Needham, Cassaro
Assists – Holtz, Kuntar