Phantoms Exhibition Schedule
Vs: Team USA
Game time: 7 p.m.
Where: Ann Arbor
Ice Cube, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Vs: Muskegon Lumberjacks
Game time: 7 p.m.
Where: Ludington, Mich.
USHL FALL CLASSIC
At: Sioux City, Iowa
Sept 22: vs. Cedar Rapids, 4 p.m.
Sept. 23: vs. Sioux Falls, 6 p.m.
Sept. 24: vs. Lincoln Stars, 1 p.m.
By Tom Williams
Anthony Noreen would love it if the Youngstown Phantoms won both of this weekend’s exhibition games plus their three games next week at the USHL’s Fall Classic in Sioux City, Iowa.
But the Phantoms’ head coach is more concerned with taking a close look at his players in a competitive environment in a search for the strongest components.
“Competitive-wise, [I’m] feeling a little bit of everything,” said Noreen when asked about being nervous, anxious and excited about being a head coach tonight. “I don’t think you can help that at all.
“We’re not really going to focus on the score,” said Noreen, whose Phantoms will be in Ann Arbor, Mich., tonight to play Team USA’s 18-under squad. “We just want to get as many guys in as many situations as possible, and kind of evaluate what we have.”
On Saturday, the Phantoms will play a preseason game against the Muskegon Lumberjacks in Ludington, Mich. They’ll return home on Sunday to prepare for the Fall Classic trip where they will play the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Sioux Falls Musketeers and Lincoln Stars.
Last season, Noreen, 28, was an assistant coach on Curtis Carr’s staff, handling the defense. In August, Carr resigned to become an assistant coach with Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., and Noreen was promoted to head coach.
Brad Patterson, a former Youngstown SteelHound, returns for his third season as an assistant coach and former Mahoning Valley Phantom Rob Rassey has been hired as another assistant coach.
“With the new guys, we want to see if they are ready to play at this level, see how up-to-speed they are and what we need to work on with them,” Noreen said. “With the returning guys, we want to see what steps they’ve taken over the summer.”
Among the Phantoms returning are goaltenders Matthew O’Connor and Sean Romeo, forwards Ryan Belonger and Mike Ambrosia, and defensemen Chris Bradley and Kevin Liss.
Bradley says it’s a different feeling returning as a veteran.
“Last year, I was a rookie and I looked up to [the veterans],” Bradley said. “That kind of got me through the year. Now, I’ve got to fill those shoes for the rookies.
“So it’s going to be different but I’ve got to take the same approach and play my best.”
For the exhibition games, teams can skate 20 players instead of 18, which gives the coaches a chance to work more players.
Asked who would be the first five players he sends on the ice the first time Team USA is whistled for a penalty, Noreen smiled.
“Right now, we have five units,” Noreen said. “Everyone is going to get a chance to play on the power play, everyone is going to get a chance to kill penalties.”
Bradley said he’s excited for Noreen’s opportunity.
“Last year, I really enjoyed playing under him as our defensive coach,” Bradley said. “In these first two weeks, he’s just so into it, so energetic. I really feel that it’s taking a turn for the better and a lot of change is happening.”