YOUNGSTOWN, OH – After the Lincoln Stars tied the game with just under five minutes remaining in the second period, the Youngstown Phantoms (20-16-1-3, 44 points) scored the last three goals of the game to grab a 5-2 victory Friday night at the Covelli Centre.
“We had a little lull where they made it 2-2” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “I liked our pushback after that. I really wouldn’t say push back, I liked us before that, and I liked us after. I thought the guys stuck with the process and they got the result.”
The Phantoms grabbed a 1-0 lead just before the halfway point of the first period. Trevor Kuntar fired a laser of a wrist shot past the shoulder of Samuel Hlavaj (20 saves) at 9:40 for his 11th of the season. Youngstown doubled their lead with a highlight-reel goal from Matthew Barnaby at 10:31 of the second period. Barnaby took a pass from Kuntar in the neutral zone and walked down the slot. Surrounded by a trio of Lincoln defender, he slipped the puck through the legs of Sam Niinisaari, danced around him, caught up to the puck, and lifted a shot over Hlavaj that tucked into the net just under the crossbar to put the Youngstown ahead 2-0. “I had been yelling at Matt before that to shoot the puck,” said Patterson. “We had a laugh about it, it’s nice to be able to do that when it goes in the back of the net.”
Four minutes later, Lincoln struck twice in 50 seconds to tie the game. Josh Lopina forced a backhander past Christian Stoever (18 saves) at 14:31 to cut the Youngstown lead to 2-1. Tristan Ashbrook finshed off a 4-on-2 rush for the Stars to knot the game at 2-2 at 15:21.
Looking for a spark, Coach Patterson did some line jumbling and reunited the “3M” line late in the second, and got instant results. Connor MacEachern picked up a loose puck between the circles and fired it past Hlavaj with just 42.7 seconds left in the period to put Youngstown back in the lead for good at 3-2. The play was made, however, by Jack Malone, who after losing the faceoff in the offensive zone beat his man to the puck behind the cage and kept possession for the Phantoms, creating the play that led to the goal. “Jack wants to be a better player in all 200 feet of the rink,” said Patterson. “He’s gotten better continuously over the course of the year…I’m glad he’s getting rewarded.”
Youngstown added a pair of insurance goals in the third period on redirects from Brett Murray. His first goal of the night came at 7:33, redirecting a shot-pas from Aiden Gallacher to put the Phantoms ahead 4-2. The final tally of the game came at 15:43, when a shot from Liam Dennison was tipped by Liam Robertson in the slot before redirecting again off Murray’s twig at the edge of the crease, giving Murray his 24th goal of the season and the Phantoms a 5-2 lead.
With the victory, Youngstown claimed soul possession of third place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference, two points clear of the Dubuque Fighting Saints and Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. The Phantoms and Stars wrap up their season series tomorrow night at the Covelli Centre with puck drop scheduled for 7:05pm Eastern. The game will be broadcast on Western Reserve Radio and HockeyTV.
By the Numbers
Shots – 25
Saves – 18
Power Play – 1/4
Penalty Kill – 3/3
Goals – Barnaby, Kuntar, MacEachern, Murray (2)
Assists – Abate (2), Dennison, Gallacher (2), Kuntar, Malone (2), Robertson