NAHL Wearing of the green helps Phantoms, 5-1
Mahoning Valley pulled even with the Cleveland Barons for second place.
By GREG GULAS
BOARDMAN -- Using green ice and green game shirts as their motivation on St. Patrick's Day, the Mahoning Valley Phantoms got two goals from Jake Coyle and a near-flawless effort in goal by Ryan Zapolski to post a 5-1 victory over the Alpena Ice Diggers in North American Hockey League action Friday night at The Ice Zone.
Coyle, a native of Parma who is also of Irish extraction, was playing in his first game this season for the Phantoms after completing his rehab assignment for an injured shoulder, suffered in the fall when he was a member of the Boston Jr. Bruins of the Eastern Junior Hockey League.
Trained by Mainhardt
"Coach [Bob] Mainhardt helped train me when I was at Padua High School, so I am quite familiar with his coaching style," Coyle said. "I got here right before the trade deadline in early January so it was great to finally get some ice time.
"Give all of the credit tonight to [Marc] Menzione and [Drew] Satterley for my goals. They made great passes and all I had to do was get the shot off. It's a great feeling; the entire team is the reason this feels so good."
Assistant coach Ian Fredricks, sitting in for Mainhardt behind the bench as the Phantom head coach serves the first of a four-game league-imposed suspension, was pleased with both the play of team and its newest scorer, Coyle.
"Jake [Coyle] did exactly tonight what we wanted him to do and that is score. His rehabilitation has gone really well and he showed that with his effort by putting it all on the line for us," Fredricks stated.
"After taking two of three from the division leading U.S. National team last weekend, we knew that the Ice Diggers would be fired up. It was crucial to get these points tonight.
"Timely goals and a great effort in goal by [Ryan] Zapolski were the difference in the game."
The Phantoms improved to 33-17-4 (70 points) overall, winning for the fourth time in five outings while pulling even with the Cleveland Barons (33-18-4, 70 points) for second-place in the league's North Division.
National team wins
The top team, the U.S. National squad (35-12-5, 75 points), defeated the Traverse City North Stars, 8-1 Friday night to retain their five-point divisional lead.
Coyle's first goal (4:15) of the game and season in the opening period staked the Phantoms to a 1-0 advantage, and when Milan Drevenak (1:15) and Coyle (1:29) added goals 14 seconds apart at the outset of the second period, Mahoning Valley built a 3-0 advantage barely a minute into the second stanza.
Erik Peterson's goal for the Ice Diggers at 4:27 of the period cut the Phantom margin to 3-1, but goals by Matt Quigley (15:51) and Bret Larson (17:04) just 1:13 apart in the final period put the game out of reach as Mahoning Valley rejected the Alpena charge for the 10th time in 11 outings this year.
Zapolski, who disallowed 34 of 35 Alpena shots on the night, registered his 21st victory of the season in goal (he is 21-10-4) and won for the ninth time in 10 tries against the Ice Diggers.
The two teams will conclude their weekend and season series tonight at 7 p.m. at The Ice Zone.