By Tom Williams
Austin Cangelosi’s flip shot in overtime produced just enough magic to have the Youngstown Phantoms one win away from their first USHL playoff series win.
Six minutes into the extra session, Cangelosi led a 3-on-3 breakout from the Phantoms’ zone then flipped the puck up at Cedar Rapids RoughRiders goaltender Jake Hildebrand. The puck came down on Hildebrand’s stickside shoulder then fell into the net for the Phantoms’ 4-3 win on Monday at the Covelli Centre.
“I meant to do it, but it didn’t register,” said Cangelosi of the unusual goal. “I processed it, but it didn’t process through my head. Somehow something came out of it.
“It was trickling down behind his back and I was just ecstatic,” Cangelosi said of his reaction to the red light. “I popped down on one knee, I couldn’t believe it.”
The Phantoms can clinch the best-of-3 series tonight.
“One of the great things about this league is you get to be around special talents, see them before the play in the NHL,” Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said. “I don’t know how many people in the world would have been creative enough [for that shot].
“It was the biggest goal in the history of this program,” Noreen said.
Twice in the third period, the Phantoms overcame deficits to stay alive. Trailing 2-1, JT Stenglein in the slot took a pass from Alex Gacek and tied the game halfway through the third period.
Having killed off six penalties at that point, the Phantoms were awarded their first power play.
But the advantage went to the shorthanded RoughRiders when Nick Saracino stole the puck near center ice and beat Phantoms goaltender Matt O’Connor with a shot under his pads.
Not long after the power play expired, Jonathan Liau came through. Liau skated down the left wing and fired the puck past Hildebrand to force overtime.
“I know it’s cliche to say, but I couldn’t really think” of a move, said Liau who was traded to the Phantoms from Omaha in early February. “[Mike] Ambrosia made a beautiful pass to me and I just came down the side. Coach had been saying ‘shoot’ the whole game, so I decided to shoot.”
Liau saw increased ice time after Dylan Margonari was injured hitting the goalpost in the first period.
Ambrosia opened the scoring for the Phantoms’ only lead until the end. Cangelosi and Sam Anas assisted.
Dylan Gareau and Ryan McGrath responded with goals for the RoughRiders’ first lead.
Despite losing Margonari, the Phantoms killed off the RoughRiders’ eight power plays, including an 80-second two-man advantage.
Hildebrand kept the RoughRiders in the game, stopping 38 shots. O’Connor faced just 18 shots despite Cedar Rapids’ 8-3 power play advantage.
“We did a great job blocking shots, a great job of hitting,” Noreen said. “Our guys played their hearts out.
“We want to put this away tomorrow,” Noreen said. “We know we can’t give them life. We need to treat every day as a must-win.”