By John Kovach
YOUNGSTOWN — It turned out to be a lopsided mismatch between the haves and have-nots for one night.
The Sioux Falls Stampede had both the offense and the defense humming smoothly while the Youngstown Phantoms had both the offense and defense sputtering badly.
The result: Stampede 8, Phantoms 1, in Friday’s United States Hockey League East Division game at the Covelli Centre.
The high-scoring and entertaining contest, part of the Hockey Across America Night celebration, drew an attendance of 2,467 fans.
The first period had the writing on the wall for the Phantoms.
The Stampede’s five first-period goals scored were too much for Youngstown to cope with.
The home team fell further behind, by 8-0, before averting a shutout late in the game. Luke Eibler scored with 2:22 left on an assist from Adam Berkle.
“I think that when our goalie, Clay Witt, made some great saves early in the game, when the Phantoms had some great scoring chances, [that] set the stage for our performance tonight.” said Stampede coach Kevin Hartzell.
He noted Witt will go on to play collegiate hockey next year for Northeastern University in Boston.
Sioux Falls exploded for the five goals in their first 11 shots of the game. The first four were scored against goalie Matt Mahalak and the fifth score against backup Jordan Tibbett, to build the 5-0 lead that proved to be insurmountable.
The five goals — two by Jacob Johnstone and one each by Michael Voran, Anthony Day and Conor Allen — were the most Youngstown has allowed in the first period this season.
Johnstone also had an assist in the first period, and his three points boosted his season scoring total to 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points.
Voran, who added an assist in the final period, is the Stampede’s leading scorer with 17 goals and 27 assists for 44 points.
Day also finished with two goals and now has nine with 14 assists for 23 points.
The Phantoms fell to 14-20-2, 30 points and remain in sixth place in the East Division.
The Stampede improved to 20-8-8 with 48 points for third place in the East.
The two teams will return to the Covelli Centre ice Sunday with a 3 p.m. game on Family Day.
The Phantoms will continue their homestand Wednesday at 10 a.m. against Indiana before hosting twice next weekend.
Hartzell had no explanation for his team’s early and strong offensive outburst, except to say that, “We completed passes, shot pucks into the net, some of them going in and some that didn’t. It wasn’t complicated, but it was one of our better games.”
Coach Bob Mainhardt of the Phantoms agreed in part to what Hartzell said about his team’s failure to score early.
But for the most part, Mainhardt contended that his team just wasn’t ready to play and took the blame for it.
He said he will not fault goalies Mahalak and Tibbett, even though each gave up four goals.
“[Sioux Falls] had some great scoring chances. We gave them some great first shots. You can’t blame the goalies for that,” Mainhardt said.
But, “I hope we can made our corrections by Sunday and have a better game.”
Johnstone gave the Stampede a lead it never relinquished as he connected with 16:52 left in the first period on assists from Michael Voran and Matt Zarbo for a 1-0 advantage.
Voran scored at 14:19 on assists from Matt Linblad and Clark Cristolfi for a 2-0 lead, after which Johnstone struck again at 9:39 on Matt Bailey’s assist for a 3-0 lead.
Just 29 seconds later, Anthony Day found the net on assists from Ryan Misiak and George Michalke for a 4-0 lead.
Mahalak was replaced in goal by Tibbett, who also failed to stop the Stampede as Conor Allen connected at 2:47 on an assist from Johnstone to make it 5-0 after the first period.
Sioux Falls added two more goals in the second period as Day hit his second goal at 16:43 on assists from Mischalke and Chad Ruhwedel to make it 6-0.
Jamie Oleksiak tallied his first goal of the year on Matt Linblad’s assist with 5:26 left in the second period to boost the margin to 7-0 entering the final period.
The Stampede added a final goal with 7:17 left when Zarbo found the net on assists from Linblad and Voran.