Gamblers clobber Phantoms for edge
Green Bay scores 4 in the first
By WESTON HODKIEWICZ
Green Bay Press-Gazette
ASHWAUBENON , WIS.
When balancing regular-season glory versus rest, Green Bay Gamblers coach Derek Lalonde deferred the latter in preparation for the USHL Clark Cup playoffs.
That strategy paid off in spades for the Gamblers during Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday.
A week after resting its top skaters and dropping its regular-season finale to the Youngstown Phantoms in a shootout, the Gamblers returned in full force and rode a four-goal first period to a 7-1 thrashing of the Phantoms to gain the upper hand in best-of-five semifinals series in front of 3,337 at the Resch Center.
Since falling to Youngstown 5-3 on Dec. 16, Green Bay is 5-0-1 in its last six against the Phantoms, who outshot the Gamblers 31-28 but struggled to bounce back after a rough opening stanza.
“That game, in particular, was an indication of how this team was managed down the stretch — we were rested and we were healthy,” Lalonde said. “Our players were very anxious, so we didn’t know how we were going to be, but they showed up and they executed. You saw it during our systems, you saw it during our special teams and that made us successful.”
Despite playing for a USHL-record 48th win last Saturday, Green Bay sat top-line forwards Alex Broadhurst, Sam Herr and Nolan LaPorte, second-year defensemen Andy Welinski and Markus Lauridsen, and goalie Ryan McKay in an eventual 4-3 shootout loss at Youngstown’s Covelli Centre.
After staying true to their playoff focus but missing the record, the well-rested Gamblers returned to the ice against a Youngstown squad playing on three days rest after sweeping Cedar Rapids in a best-of-three first-round series.
The difference was clear early, beginning with a transition goal from Broadhurst at 1:58. Coming off a hat trick against the Phantoms last Saturday, captain Grant Arnold made it 2-0 after scoring the right post at 4:19.
Youngstown managed to cut the deficit to one goal with a Jonathan Liau score spurred by a home-run pass at 5:23, but the Gamblers found an answer in Welinski, a candidate for USHL defenseman of the year.
It began when Welinski scored off a shot from the a few steps inside the blue line at 15:12.
He then set up the first of two Alex Kile goals with 25 seconds left in the first period to take a 4-1 lead and chase Phantoms starting goaltender Matthew O’Connor after 10 saves on 14 attempts.
Youngstown didn’t fare much better with his backup, Sean Romeo, in the second period, surrendering goals to Lauridsen, Ville Jarvelainen and Kile as the lead escalated to 7-1 through two periods.
Gamblers goalie Ryan McKay picked his seventh career postseason win after making 19 saves on 20 shots before relieved by backup Michael Rotolo, who made 11 saves during a scoreless third period.