Youngstown grabbed an early 2-0 lead before giving up six tallies.
By GREG GULAS
YOUNGSTOWN — Indiana’s Shane Berschbach and Antti Roppo each scored two goals to spoil the debut of the Youngstown Phantoms in the United States Hockey League opener Saturday at the Covelli Centre.
Indiana goalie Casey DeSmith held Youngstown scoreless in the final 45:20 of the game as the Ice defeated the Phantoms, 6-2.
The game was the initial contest for the Phantoms in the 14-team, Tier 1 league.
After taking the early 2-0 lead, the Phantoms could not hold down the defending champions as they allowed six unanswered goals over the final two-and-a-half periods of play.
“We were embarrassing for the last 40 minutes,” Phantoms coach Bob Mainhardt said. “We got completely away from our game plan, got pushed around and outworked in our own building.
“That won’t happen again. I am embarrassed by this performance,” Mainhardt said.
Among the 1,854 fans in attendance were Bill and Katie Wilson of Poland; billet family hosts.
The Wilsons, who are hosting Phantoms Rich Young and J.D. Carrabino, are in their third season as a host family, having already played host in the past to former Mahoning Valley Phantoms players Stefan Salituro, Carl Nielson and Robert Harrison.
“This is an exciting time, not only for us but for the many hockey fans in the area,” Bill Wilson said. “The players seem bigger and stronger and the overall talent pool is something to watch as well.
“I must admit that it’s the fights and the popcorn that get me going more than anything else,” Katie Wilson said.
The Phantoms have an excellent track record of community involvement, having taken time during the preseason to work with their younger namesakes; the Phantom Squirts and Phantom Mites.
“This is my second year in hockey and after working with some of the Phantoms players, I know that I can learn a lot more by watching them in person,” said Boardman’s Nick Beck, a member of the Phantom Mites.
“As a goalie, I find it easy to pick up valuable tips while watching their goalies at work during an actual game,” noted Beck’s brother, John, a member of the Phantom Squirts.
Vincent Hepola of Canfield, also a youth hockey player, had a different reason for attending Youngstown’s USHL opener.
“I really like hockey and there is no better way for me to learn the game than to watch our local stars in action,” Hepola said.
Driving in from Indianapolis for the game to watch their son, Jordan, in goal were Jeremy and Jodi Tibbett and their other son Jackson.
Tibbett, in his third season with the Phantoms organization, made 21 saves.
“It’s a really festive atmosphere here tonight and I cannot tell you how excited it is just to be a part of the excitement,” Jeremy Tibbett said.
“We try to get to Jordan’s games at least once a month,” Jodi Tibbett said. “To be here for the opener in their new league, however, with all of the excitement surrounding the game is really very special for all of us.”
The Ice took the first three shots of the game before Youngstown could even get a missile lined up.
When they finally did take a shot, it was Joe Zarbo who supplied the answer for trivia buffs down the road as to what Phantoms player had scored their first USHL goal.
Skating down the right side of the ice, Zero took a pass from Dan Zenkbeil and drove it past DeSmith at the 5:36 mark.
“It felt pretty good to get the first goal, but it would have felt a lot better had we won the game,” Zarbo said
The Phantoms then increased their advantage to 2-0 when Brett Gensler, off an assist from Andrej Sustr, scored at the 14:40 mark of the opening period.
The Ice showed just why they are defending champions after a three-goal barrage in the second period yielded a 3-2 lead.
Sean Logue cut the Youngstown lead in half at 10:00 of the second period with his initial tally of the year. Shane Berschbach notched the first of his two goals in the frame for a 2-2 tie.
Berschbach’s second goal of the period gave Indiana its first lead of the game, 3-2.
Two goals by Roppo and one by Frankie DeAugustine in the final frame rounded out the scoring.