Phantoms defeat Indiana, earn home-ice advantage for playoffs
By tom williams
Undermanned because of illness and injuries, the Youngstown Phantoms displayed their gutsiest performance of the season Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
Despite being outshot 31-18 over the final two periods, the fourth-place Phantoms held off the second-place Indiana Ice, then won 2-1 in overtime on defenseman Chris Bradley’s slapshot.
Bradley’s goal came 13 seconds after the Phantoms clinched home playoff games for April 16-18. Bradley’s shot eluded Ice goaltender Jon Gillies, one of the USHL’s top netminders.
“I was just trying to put it to the net,” said Bradley, one of the Phantoms’ five healthy defensemen. “Good things happen when you throw it at the net so that was my first instinct. I saw a lane and just took it.
“That was a good one,” Bradley said of his seventh goal. “I wanted that one really bad — home-ice advantage is just everything in this league. It’s huge.”
Playing in just his 11th game, backup goaltender Sean Romeo (4-5-2) stopped 38 shots.
Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen called it “one of the best goaltending performances we’ve had all year — absolutely awesome.
“Sean doesn’t get to see a lot of the net, that’s kind of a tribute to how good Matt O’Connor has been,” Noreen said. “He’s going to be the guy here in the next year or two.”
Thirty of Romeo’s saves came in the final 40:13.
“I felt good, the team helped me a lot,” Romeo said. “[Bradley] and [Mike Ambrosia] made a few big plays there at the end.”
Early on, the Ice had the advantage, registering six of the first eight shots. But midway through the opening period, the Phantoms slowly took charge, sparked by three power-play chances.
On the first one, JT Stenglein found Austin Cangelosi alone at the edge of the faceoff circle to the left of Gillies and the Phantoms’ leading scorer smacked the puck into the net. Daniel Renouf also earned an assist.
“I felt that once we got through the first five minutes, we’d be fine,” Romeo said.
But so was Gillies, who stopped 19 shots as the Phantoms had a 20-8 edge after 20 minutes.
Midway through the second period, the Ice tied the game when Sean Kuraly beat Romeo with a shot from the right face-off circle during a power-play.
Tension mounted as time wound down during the third period and the Phantoms began sacrificing their bodies trying to hold on for the point that would keep them home for their first playoff games.
Defenseman Jordan Young stopped one Ice shot with his chest. Even more impressive was the body check defenseman Ryan Lowney put on the Ice’s Jacob Fallon.
“That was one of the hardest hits I’ve seen all year,” Romeo said.
“Ryan Lowney’s hit on a guy who probably has 60 pounds on him was the best hit I’ve ever seen,” Noreen said. “Not only that but it led to us getting the puck and led to that late power play.”
The Phantoms’ final power play expired three seconds before Bradley’s goal.
Before that Bradley made another heads-up play in the final 25 seconds of regulation.
Bradley took possession behind the Phantoms’ goal and calmly waited for the Ice to forecheck. The move ate up most of the remaining time and gave each team a point.
“We usually go forward but in the back of my mind, I knew that all we needed was one point,” Bradley said, “Running the clock down to get it to overtime, I think it worked well.”