Phantoms maintain their dominance with a win at the Covelli Centre
By Greg Gulas
The Youngstown Phantoms have been money in the bank when leading after both the first and second periods of play.
With Matt O’Connor in goal turning back all but one Fargo shot, Youngstown remained perfect in those two categories while continuing to dominate on their own ice.
J.T. Stenglein, Alexander Dahl and Sam Anas each scored a goal and the Phantoms won for the seventh time in nine tries at home as they defeated the Force, 3-1 in USHL action Friday at the Covelli Centre.
“We were a little off in some portions of our game tonight but we always seemed to be in control,” said Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen. “We said at the beginning of the year that we wanted this to be one of the toughest arenas for opponents to play in and so far that has been the case.
“Taking care of business at home and battling on the road are the keys,” Anthony Noreen said.
It took the Phantoms nearly half of the opening period to get going, but when they started to click offensively Force goalie Zane Gothberg became their official shot target.
J.T. Stenglein got Youngstown (11-5-0, 22 points) on the board first with his seventh goal of the season, that coming at 11:17 of the frame. It was an unassisted wrister that flew right past the outstretched glove of Gothberg.
Alexander Dahl increased the Phantoms’ lead to 2-0 when his first goal of the campaign found the back of the Fargo net just 18 seconds later.
It was a lead that would hold up after the first 20 minutes of play as the Phantoms enjoyed a 10-5 shot advantage.
Youngstown increased their lead to 3-0 in the second period when Sam Anas scored the team’s third consecutive unassisted goal of the game, this time at the 17:46 mark of the stanza.
Youngstown would end the first 40 minutes of play with a 21-11 shot margin.
In the final period, the Force (5-10-3, 13 points) had a two-man advantage for nearly a minute in the middle of the frame but failed to get the puck past O’Connor, who won for the ninth time in 12 outings.
They did, however, avoid the shutout when Brian Cooper ripped his unassisted shot past O’Connor at 13:38 to cut the Youngstown margin to 3-1. It proved to be too-little, too-late as they fell to 0-2-1 in their last three outings and 3-4-2 in nine road outings this season.
“We’ve come together as a team and we’re really clicking on all cylinders right now,” said O’Connor. “We’ve adopted a ‘Refuse to Lose’ mentality and even when down a goal and no matter how late in the game, everyone still believes that we can come back.
“We’re a skilled team with a ton of positive energy right now,” added O’Connor. “My job is to hold the lead and even if we do get down, we still continue to work hard and that has been the key to our success thus far this season.
The Phantoms, who outshot the Force 27-20, are 2-0 on their current four-game homestand and will play the Sioux City Musketeers tonight; a 4-2 winner on Friday over the Indiana Ice.
Game time at the Covelli Centre is 7:15 p.m.