By GREG GULAS
BOARDMAN -- Mahoning Valley Phantom Rockets coach Bob Hawthorne could not have drawn up a better script for his team's game Thursday with the Brownstown Bombers at The Ice Zone.
Hoping for a win before heading to Toledo on Saturday for the Continental East Hockey League All-Star game, team captain Mike Hanna pulled off a hat trick and added an assist as the Rockets defeated Brownstown, 5-3.
"This was a must-win game for us," Hawthorne said. "We seem to play well against Brownstown and stack up against them like no other team in the league.
"With six weeks left in the season, anything can happen and we're just hoping to play the type of hockey that we are capable of playing after the all-star break as we eye a playoff berth."
The first 24 minutes, 57 seconds of the game were rather boring as neither team could score. But what seemed like a "slow-motion" first period turned into a "race up and down the ice" second.
Hanna, assisted by Dan Wiefling and Josh Streets, scored the first of his three goals at 5:07 of the second period to give the Phantom Rockets a 1-0 lead. Hanna assisted David Wilmert at the 8:16 mark of the period to give Mahoning Valley a 2-0 lead.
"Mike Hanna has been our leader both on and off the ice this season," Hawthorne said.
"After losing the way that we did against Detroit this past weekend, we worked extra hard in practice on defensive zone play, making sure to pick up the trailers," Hawthorne said. "In keeping the Brownstown shots down, our offense took care of itself."
Eight seconds after Wilmert's goal, Brownstown cut the Phantom Rockets lead in half on Chris Powroznik's goal. Hanna, assisted by Scott Kochniarczyk, then scored his second goal at 10:55 to give the Phantom Rockets a 3-1 advantage.
"They really killed us with their shots-on-goal advantage," Brownstown coach Mike Boileau said. "The Phantom Rockets are a much stronger team now than the team that started the season.
"Give Bob Hawthorne the credit for that," Boileau said. "As a first year team in the league, he has done an excellent job of keeping them in each and every game that they play."
When Gabe Yeoung (picked up from the Toledo Ice Diggers) assisted Will Kinghorn at the 16:01 mark of the period, Brownstown cut the Phantom Rockets lead to 3-2. That would be as close as the score would get.
Hanna's third goal of the night followed just 14 seconds later to make it 4-2. Justin Cassel of Mahoning Valley and a Chris Marasco unassisted goal for the Bombers rounded out the scoring.
The Phantom Rockets held a 49-26 shots-on-goal advantage. Nick Signet picked up the win in goal for Mahoning Valley by rejecting 23 Brownstown shots.
The Phantom Rockets (13-29-0) won for the fifth time in seven contests against the Bombers (12-27-0) this season.