By Tom Williams
The rarest of hat tricks combined with a disputed goal have pushed the Youngstown Phantoms to the brink of elimination.
Green Bay’s Alex Broadhurst scored three short-handed goals — a USHL first — to lead the Green Bay Gamblers to Tuesday’s 6-3 victory at the Covelli Centre.
“One of those nights where we didn’t get the bounce we needed,” Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said. “I don’t think it was anything special they were doing or anything terrible we were doing on the power play, just an unfortunate bounce on two of those.”
With a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five series, the Gamblers can end the Phantoms’ most successful USHL season tonight.
Broadhurst’s first goal put the top-seeded Gamblers ahead three minutes into the game. The second one came late in the second period for a 5-1 lead.
The backbreaker came after Phantoms Ryan Belonger and JT Stenglein scored in the third period to throw a scare into the Gamblers.
With 6:55 remaining, Stenglein connected on a 5-on-3 power play. But once again, the Gamblers took over near the Phantoms’ blue line and stormed up ice and Broadhurst pounced on a rebound of Sam Herr’s shot.
“It’s pretty rare to get a hat trick in general, to be honest,” said Broadhurst, a seventh-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks last June who knew that former Calgary Flame Theo Fleury is the only NHL player to score three shorthanded in a game.
“I wouldn’t say I was lucky — I think I worked hard for it and I deserved it,” Broadhurst said of his first USHL hat trick.
Gamblers goaltender Ryan McKay stopped 16 shots while the Phantoms’ Matt O’Connor made 27 saves.
Late in the first period, Todd Koritzinsky tied the game for the Phantoms with a no-look backhand shot.
Pat Conte, who won a third-period fight against Max Hartner, set up the goal at the side of the Gamblers’ net when he dished a soft pass to Koritzinsky.
The Phantoms forward spun about 180 degrees and launched the puck before he was facing McKay. Chris Bradley also received an assist.
But the momentum was lost when the Gamblers’ Sheldon Dries scored on O’Connor with 25 seconds remaining in the period.
O’Connor and defenseman Daniel Renouf instantly appealed to the referee that the puck was kicked and should have been disallowed. After an officials’ conference at center ice, the goal was permitted.
Although the Phantoms won Sunday’s game, 5-3, in Green Bay, Gamblers coach Derek Lalonde said his team wake-up call “was our poor play in the first [period]. We were very fortunate to be up 2-1. I thought we would respond a little better.”
Goals by C.J. Eick and Grant Arnold in the first nine minutes of the second period made it a three-goal advantage that zapped the Phantoms. Then came Broadhurst’s second goal.
“That second-period team was what we’ve seen all year,” said Lalonde, referring to Green Bay’s 47 wins in 60 regular-season games.
Noreen said he’s glad there is no day off for Game 4.
“I wish we were playing it tonight,” Noreen said moments after the game ended. “It’s do-or-die time. There’s not much I needed to say after the game to the guys — they all know what is on the line.
“For all of them, it’s the last time guaranteed for them to play together,” Noreen said. “I expect a much better effort.”