The hockey club will play Team USA in a pair of games at the Covelli Centre.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League have their work cut out to get back on the winning track, when they continue their home stand this week at the Covelli Centre.
The Phantoms, mired in a five-game losing streak after losing a pair of games last weekend against the Fargo Force, 4-2, and 3-1, will face Team USA on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. and then again on Jan. 18 at 6:30 in East Division games.
Youngstown (13-16-2, 28 points) is in fifth place in the East while Team USA (9-18-3, 21 points) is in last place.
The two teams have met three times this season, all in December and all in Ann Arbor, Mich., with the Phantoms losing two of the games, 4-3 and 9-3. Youngstown won the other encounter, 6-5, in overtime.
Coach Bob Mainhardt of the Phantoms said that the inability to score in the final period was a big factor in the team’s weekend loses to the Force, who stretched their winning streak to eight games.
“We were attacking the goal the first two periods, but then stopped doing it in the final period when we needed it the most,” said Mainhardt after Friday’s 4-2 setback, in which his team failed to score in the final 20 minutes. “We got outworked in the third period.”
But the coach thought that the Phantoms played better offensively in the final period of Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Fargo, even though they were blanked again over that final span.
“We generated opportunities [on offense] but we just couldn’t get [the puck] in. Their goalie [Ryan Massa] was outstanding. He was the difference absolutely.”
Mainhardt said that Massa also was the difference in Friday’s game.
“[Massa] was making some really good saves in the first two periods, and we were unable to make our shots,” the coach said. “At crunch time, it was the same old story.”
But a breakdown in the Phantoms’ defense actually caused the loss Saturday, as the Force scored back-to-back goals within a span of just five seconds in the second period to take a 3-1 lead.
Mainhardt said those two quick goals “probably were the quickest I’ve seen. [They] would have broken our back but we responded well.” But, “The big saves that [Massa] made were even bigger than their two quick goals.”
Andrew Lamont was a bright spot for the Phantoms on Saturday when he scored both of the team’s goals to give him eight for the year.
Taylor Holstrom continues as Youngstown’s scoring leader with 23 points on eight goals and 15 assists, followed by Jefferson Dahl with 21 points on 11 goals and 10 assists. Brett Gensler is third with 20 points on 11 goals and nine assists, followed by Brian Dowd with 19 points on eight goals and 11 assists.
Dahl and Gensler are tied for most goals on the team with their 11 each.
The Phantoms have been using two goalies, Jordan Tibbett and Matthew Mahalak. Tibbett took the loss in Friday’s game while Mahalak played on Saturday.
Tibbett is 7-8-0 this season and Mahalak is 6-8-2.