NAHL Good night for Phantoms at IZ
The 4-2 win moved Mahoning Valley into a virtual tie with the Cleveland Barons for second in the division.
By GREG GULAS
BOARDMAN -- The last four meetings between the Cleveland Barons and Mahoning Valley Phantoms found the losing team unable to penetrate the opposition's net
With the Barons victorious in three of those contests and goaltender Kenny Reiter on the winning end of two of those shutouts, the Phantoms felt that in order to win they would have to start fast against Reiter.
Keeping the pressure on the Barons all night, however, would be the challenge if they expected to pull even with the Barons in the league standings.
Anthony Ciraulo's goal at 13:52 of the final period and an empty net goal by Marc Menzione with 52 seconds remaining, lifted the Phantoms to a 4-2 victory over their North Division counterparts in North American Hockey League action Friday night at The Ice Zone.
The win moved the Phantoms (32-16-4, 68 points) into a virtual tie with the Barons (32-18-4, 68 points) for second place in the division, and kept both teams within two points of the top spot and the U.S. National Team (33-12-4, 70 points), a 3-2 loser Friday night against the Alpena Ice Diggers.
"This was a big win for us. We needed this one tonight if we expected to keep pace in the division," Phantom head coach Bob Mainhardt said.
"Our guys have really worked hard since the Christmas break and have done really well in this, the second season, so to speak. The Barons have had our number of late so it was good to get the first one in this weekend series.
"That line of [Anthony] Ciraulo, [Drew] Satterley and [Marc] Menzione was due. When you take care of the defensive zone, good things happen in the offensive zone."
Jumped out early
The Phantoms jumped out to an early goal advantage when Owen Meyer scored his 18th goal of the season just 3:08 into the game.
Trent Bonnett's goal at 12:11 of the opening period then knotted the score at 1-all heading into the second period of play.
"We had our chances tonight but couldn't put the puck in the net. As usual, both teams' goaltenders were exceptional in goal," Baron coach John Fritsche said. "I really felt as if we weren't ready to play tonight. It took us 10 minutes into the game to wake-up so we felt very lucky to give up just one goal the entire first period."
Josh Leonard's 24th goal of the year at 9:02 of the second period gave the Barons a brief 2-1 advantage, but the Phantoms' Craig Dulman knotted the score at 2-all with his sixth score of the season at 14:36.
Ciraulo's third period goal then gave the Phantoms the lead for good and when the Barons pulled Reiter with 1:32 remaining in favor of a sixth skater, that cleared the way for Menzione's empty net goal with under a minute to play.
The Phantoms held a 38-34 shots on goal advantage with Ryan Zapolski rejecting 32 Baron shots for his 20th win of the season. He is 20-10-4 in 34 games this season.
The win by Mahoning Valley snapped a four-game win streak by the Barons while the Phantoms won for the third consecutive outing, and the fifth time in their last six contests.
The teams will conclude their two-game series tonight at 7 p.m. at The Ice Zone.