The Detroit Lightning streaked to its 19th straight win, while Mahoning Valley continued in a slump.
By GREG GULAS
BOARDMAN -- When the Mahoning Valley Phantom Rockets meet the Detroit Lightning, you can almost bet that there will be plenty of hard-hitting, crisp passing, a number of penalties and almost no pleasantries exchanged between the two teams.
Such was the case as Leo Thomas and Paul Scalici each scored twice for Detroit, helping the Lightning to a lopsided 9-4 victory over the Phantom Rockets in a Continental East Hockey League game at The Ice Zone Saturday night.
The win was the 19th in a row for Detroit (32-4-2). The Phantom Rockets (12-29-0) lost for the fifth time in their last six outings.
"There were a lot of penalties tonight and we're as guilty as anyone when I say that we need to keep out mouth shut in the heat of the moment," Lightning coach John Tucker said. "Despite the penalties I felt that the referees did an excellent job of keeping everything under control out on the ice.
Coach Bob Hawthorne's Phantom Rockets suffered a setback in their quest for the league's fourth and final playoff spot.
"This is a game that I would just rather forget," Hawthorne said. "We didn't have any jump, had a number of breakdowns and lacked enthusiasm.
"The last 12 minutes or so we played like I feel we are capable of playing."
John DiPace's power play goal at 1:39 of the opening period gave the Lightning an early 1-0 lead. When Justin Cassel assisted Josh Streets just 38 seconds later, the Phantom Rockets knotted the score. That was as close as they would get.
Leo Thomas scored the first of his two unassisted goals at 14:05 as Detroit built a 2-1 lead.
Thomas' next goal at 9:43 of the second period, an unassisted, shorthanded goal gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead. When Gerald Pojanowski (15:52) and James Grunow (18:47) added their only goals of the game, Detroit had a 5-1 margin heading into the final period.
Mike Shaw's power play goal at 2:37 of the final period cut the Detroit lead to 5-2. Two unanswered goals by the Lightning, however -- the first by Steve Sabo at 3:25 and the latter by Kyle Voelker at 6:02 -- increased the Detroit lead to 7-2.
Mike Baker, just signed by the Phantom Rockets and playing in his first game, cut the lead to 7-3 with his unassisted goal 25 seconds later. Scalici's two goals, wrapped around the Phantom Rockets' Paul Fonte (10:29) then provided the final margin of victory for the Lightning.