Phantoms set to launch ‘Pavlik Series’ at Chevrolet Centre

By John Kovach

Johnny Meo will play in his 179th career game tonight as a Phantom to break the team record.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Mahoning Valley Phantoms will bring a lot of momentum into a two-game “Pavlik Series” against the Motor City Machine tonight and Friday at the Chevrolet Center.

Mahoning Valley won two of three games at Marquette last weekend to expand its first-place lead in the North American Hockey League’s North Division.

The Phantoms (30-11-4, 64 points) surged eight points ahead of Traverse City (25-12-6, 56) in the standings.

The game tonight is part of the Phantoms’ pre-fight promotion of the Kelly Pavlik-Marco Antonio Rubio championship bout.

Friday’s game will be preceded by Pavlik’s hydration weigh-in and a pre-fight rally.

Also tonight, team captain Johnny Meo will break the Phantoms’ all-time team record for most games played (179). Brent Dexter (2005-2008) held the record with 178 games.

Meo, 20, a 2007 graduate of Ursuline High School and a native of Vernon Hills, Ill., played his first game as a Phantom on Sept. 16, 2006.

He has played in 156 regular season games, scoring 28 goals an adding 74 assists. In 22 playoff contests he has five goals and five assists,

He’s the Phantoms’ fifth-highest scorer this season with seven goals and 19 assists.

Meo said the best part of the record is the winning tradition the Phantoms have created over the span.

“On the ice, it’s been wonderful,” said Meo. “We’ve had two very successful teams over the past two years and now we’re well on our way right now to our third very successful season. The last three years have been really special to me.”

During Meo’s time here the Phantoms have compiled a 113-43-9 regular season record, won one North Division championship and reached two Robertson Cup Finals.

Bruce Zoldan, the Phantoms’ president, said Meo’s legacy will go beyond games played and championships.

“Johnny has not only established the record as the Phantom who has played the most games in our history,” says Zoldan, “but also as the most positive role model for the Phantoms. He has played every game in his Phantom career with a 110 percent commitment.”

Brandon Saad, a forward from Gibsonia, Pa., also comes into tonight’s game with momentum.

Saad contributed five goals and two assists at Marquette, including a natural hat trick in a 6-1 win Saturday.

Saad, who leads the team with 38 points, was named North Division player of the week on Monday.

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