By John Kovach
The Phantoms ended an unsuccessful five-game homestand with a 4-1 loss.
YOUNGSTOWN — Even the appearance of a Darth Vader look-alike on the ice and the waving of purple-colored Lightsabers by spectators in the seats could not help the slumping Youngstown Phantoms strike back on “Star Wars Night.”
In fact, the Phantoms struck back with only one goal as they were dominated by the Waterloo Black Hawks, 4-1, Saturday night at the Covelli Centre. It was the Phantoms’ seventh straight loss in a United States Hockey League East Division game that closed a five-game homestand.
The defeat also was Youngstown’s 14th setback in the last 15 games before an announced attendance of 1,802 fans.
Waterloo scored in every period, including twice in the opener, as the Black Hawks to beat the Phantoms for the second straight night, and third time in four tries this season. Waterloo won Friday, 3-1.
This time, Patrick Divjak, Derek Arnold, J.T. Brown and Jamie Hills each found the back of the net.
Youngstown averted a shutout when Tom Serratore scored a goal at 8:01 of the final period on Stuart Higgins’ assist.
The Phantoms (14-24-2, 30 points, seventh in the East) will take a six-day break before beginning a four-game road trip on Friday at Sioux Falls at 8:05 p.m.
Youngstown will return home for a Feb. 19 date against Omaha at 7:15 p.m.
The Black Hawks (19-18-2, 40 points, fourth in East) enjoyed a 34-29 shots advantage in the game while dominating the offense for most of the 60 minutes.
Waterloo goalie C.J. Motte came through with 28 saves to foil the Phantoms’ offense for the second straight night, but he had plenty of defensive help from teammates who swarmed to the net to provide reinforcement.
“We played good defense. It was a good team effort,” said Motte, who bested Phantoms’ goalie Matt Mahalak who gave up all four goals but had 30 saves.
“I had the first and second saves and then our defense [converged] to clear the net. They helped me a lot,” Motte said.
Motte admitted that the Phantoms penetrated into the scoring zone and had their scoring opportunities, but that his converging defense “cut down on the second shots with their defensive play. That prevented them from overwhelming me.”
Phantoms assistant coach Curt Carr agreed with Motte.
“We played well and had some scoring opportunities. We had some good chances,” Carr said. “They did a good job clearing out the net to prevent us from getting opportunities.”
Waterloo took a 1-0 lead early in the first period when Divjak scored with assists from J.T. Brown and Tyler Barnes.
The Black Hawks soon struck again as Arnold’s goal made it 2-0 on assists from Zach Palmquist and Soren Jonzzon.
Waterloo padded its lead to 3-0 in the second period on Brown’s unassisted goal.
The Black Hawks made it 4-0 when Hill connected on an assist from Alex Jensen.