The Phantom Rockets close their season tonight in Dayton.
By GREG GULAS
BOARDMAN -- Leo Thomas and John DiPace each had a hat trick, with Thomas also adding two assists for a five-point night, as the league-leading Detroit Lightning defeated the Mahoning Valley Phantom Rockets, 9-3 Thursday in a Continental Elite Hockey League game at The Ice Zone.
"We got into penalty trouble early and you can't do that against teams like Detroit and Toledo, the top two teams in our league," Phantom Rocket coach Rob Hawthorne said. "You get down two or three because their offense is so potent, then you begin to press.
"That was our frustration tonight," he added. "We got caught standing still and they made us pay for that."
The Lightning (44-7-2) won for the sixth straight time and the 22nd time in their last 23 games. The Phantom Rockets (14-39-0) dropped their third straight and 10th in their last 11 games.
"We rested some players for the playoffs, hoping to get playing time for players who don't ordinarily see that much action," Lightning coach John Tucker said. "These are guys who can start on other teams but split time for us.
"Next year we'll need to reload so we wanted to get a good look at these players," he added.
Frankie Allen, with assists from Mike Hanna and Josh Streets, got the Phantom Rockets on the board first at 12:02 of the opening period, but their 1-0 lead was the only time they held the upper hand in the game.
Detroit then ran off seven unanswered goals to take a 7-1 lead early in the third period. DiPace's first score of the game, a power play goal at 14:49, knotted the score at 1, and when Thomas added his first tally of the night, unassisted at 18:31, it gave Detroit a 2-1 lead heading into the second period.
"We have six players with 30-plus goals this season and that is a luxury most teams do not have," Tucker said. "This is a squad that is potent offensively.
"Leo Thomas is something special and John DiPace has been very consistent for us all year," he added.
Breaking it open
Justin Lopez's power play goal midway through the second period gave Detroit a 3-1 advantage, while Paul Scalici's two goals and Thomas' second increased the Lightning lead to 6-1 heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
Thomas' third shot that found the net came at 4:29 of the final period, making it 7-1. Jarred Frey scored his only goal of the game for the Phantom Rockets at 8:49, cutting the Lightning lead to 7-2.
DiPace's second goal of the game 34 seconds later made it 8-2 before Todd Smith, with assists from Frankie Allen and Mike Haney at 12:49, cut the Detroit lead to 8-3.
DiPace then rounded out the scoring for Detroit, earning his hat trick with just 25 seconds remaining in the game.
The Lightning held a 72-33 shots on goal advantage, sporting a 32-11 advantage over the Phantom Rockets in the critical second period.
Mahoning Valley closes out its initial CEHL season tonight at Dayton.