Phantoms double up Bucs in home opener


Des Moines’ Kevin Irwin, left, is checked at the boards by Youngstown Phantoms’ Alex Gacek (26) during Friday’s home opener at the Covelli Centre. The Phantoms won 4-2.

By Tom Williams


Youngstown Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen is anything but surprised that Austin Cangelosi is blossoming into a clutch goal scorer.

“His hockey sense is through the roof,” said Noreen of Cangelosi who scored the game-winning goal in Friday’s 4-2 victory of the Des Moines Buccaneers at the Covelli Centre. “His skating and his shot and his stick-handling are great, but his hockey sense, his ability to find those areas where he hides a little bit and the puck finds him ... is what separates him from the pack.”

With eight minutes remaining and the Phantoms’ sixth power-play chance ticking down, Ryan Belonger fired the puck at Buccaneers goaltender Jason Kasdorf from the top of the faceoff circle. Kasdorf stopped the puck but the rebound caromed to Cangelosi on the opposite side.

Cangelosi buried the puck into the unguarded net to give the Phantoms a 3-2 lead.

“We definitely had more speed, more energy at the end,” said Cangelosi who added an empty-net goal with seven seconds remaining to give him five in three games.

Noreen said Cangelosi’s gift “is a skill set in itself, to find yourself in the position for that puck to bounce on your stick and have a wide-open net.”

Captain Mike Ambrosia and Sam Anas scored the Phantoms’ other goals while goaltender Matt O’Connor stopped 30 shots to improve to 2-1-0.

“It’s a great honor to be chosen by your teammates,” said Ambrosia who was announced as captain before the game. The alternate captains are Belonger, Dylan Margonari, Chris Bradley and Mike Gunn. “I’m joined with four great guys.”

Friday’s win was the first home opener victory for the Phantoms (2-1-0, four points) in three USHL seasons.

The Buccaneers (1-2-1, 3 points) had the advantage early on. Trent Samuels-Thomas’ backhand shot off a rebound gave the Buccaneers a 1-0 lead four minutes into the game. O’Connor made a pad save to stop Drake Caggiula’s breakaway attempt, but Samuels-Thomas swatted the rebound before the 6-foot-5 goalie could get reset.

A few minutes later, Ambrosia tied the game when his long shot from near the blue line clanked off the goal cage into the net. Defenseman Kevin Liss received an assist.

“We actually had worked on that play,” said Ambrosia of his second goal of the season. “It was a great pass by Kevin Liss and they had guys coming out so I was just trying to get it on net as quickly as possible.”

The lead evaporated after the Phantoms were penalized for too many men on the ice. Caggiula’s power-play goal beat O’Connor on the glove side and was set up by Samuels-Thomas.

Midway through the second period, Anas stripped the puck from a Buccaneers defender Duggle Lagrone near the goal line and quickly whipped the puck through Kasdorf’s pads for a 2-2 tie.

“Our guy lost a faceoff and their defenseman went to rim it around,” Anas said. “I lifted his stick, cut middle and faked a pass, then slid it 5-hole. The goalie opened for a second.”

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