Gamblers hit jackpot with Phantoms
Green Bay routs Phantoms in a possible playoff preview
By TOM WILLIAMS
In one of their two tune-up games for the USHL playoffs, the Youngstown Phantoms showed they may be in need of a jump start.
The Green Bay Gamblers (47-9-3, 97 points), by far the USHL’s top team, converted on three of their seven power-play chances on Friday in defeating the Phantoms, 7-1, at the Covelli Centre.
“They were extremely opportunistic on their chances,” Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said of the Gamblers, a team his club could face in round two of the playoffs. “We didn’t play bad enough to deserve a 7-1 loss, but we didn’t play anywhere near well enough to deserve a win.”
With the fourth-place Phantoms (31-21-7, 69 points) unable to change their playoff seeding, Noreen gave affiliate players (defenseman Kale Bennett and forward Jacob Pritchard) their first USHL experience.
Healthy scratches included defenseman Chris Bradley and forwards Ryan Belonger and Zach Evancho as the Phantoms welcomed back defenseman Kevin Liss and forwards Sam Anas and Jonathan Liau after recovering from illness and injury.
“I’ve been champing at the bit for a long time, so it’s great to finally get back out there,” said Liss who missed 10 games with a hip injury. “I wish the outcome had been a little different.
“They have a lot of talent,” Liss said. “I think we have just as much but I don’t think we came prepared today.”
Anas, who missed five games with mononucleosis, said he was cleared to play an hour before the puck dropped.
“That definitely put some jump in my step when I first got out there,” said Anas, who scored the Phantoms’ goal 21/2 minutes into the game. “It was a nice play by Austin [Cangelosi] to set me up. I was just there to put it in.”
The game soon went downhill. Alex Broadhurst tied the game when Nolan LaPorte found him alone on goaltender Matt O’Connor’s doorstep.
Two Phantoms penalties in the next two minutes set up the Gamblers’ second goal. During a 5-on-3 advantage, LaPorte beat O’Connor from close in.
Late in the first period, JT Stenglein, the Phantoms’ leading goal scorer, received a roughing penalty, game misconduct and game ejection for abuse of officials. Noreen said he doesn’t expect league officials to suspend Stenglein for tonight’s rematch with the Gamblers.
After outshooting the Phantoms 22-14 in the first 20 minutes, the Gamblers broke the game open with three goals in the next four minutes.
Before Stenglein’s two-minute penalty expired, LaPorte scored for a two-goal lead. Peter Maric and Ville Jarvelainen then beat O’Connor, who was replaced by Sean Romeo.
For a meaningless game, the third period had two unusual moments.
First, referee Steve Thomson initially signaled no goal after a Grigory Dikushin shot hit the top of the net behind Romeo and bounced out. Moments later during a break, one of the linesman confirmed the power-play goal and time was put back on the clock.
A few minutes later, Phantoms assistant coach Brad Patterson was hit with a two-minute abuse of officials penalty, giving the Gamblers a two-man advantage for a full two minutes. The Phantoms skated off that disadvantage.