By Tom Williams
Following Friday’s lackluster performance in a 3-0 loss to Team USA at the Covelli Centre, Youngstown Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen was having a little problem balancing his naughty-and-nice list.
Team USA’s 18-under team limited the Phantoms (11-15-0, 22 points) to 12 shots on goal and foiled four Phantoms’ power-play chances.
In their first home game in December, Noreen admitted his team’s play was “frustrating.
“A lot of that is to their credit, how tight they play defensively, how hard they compete in their own end,” Noreen said. “You’re not gonna win a game in this league with 12 shots and you certainly aren’t going to beat a team as good as that.”
Although Team USA (6-16-3, 15 points) resides at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the program uses multiple squads for USHL games and international tournaments. Noreen said the cream of the program has come together on this unit and will again be on the ice tonight in the Phantoms’ final game before a five-day Christmas break.
“We need to do a better job of not only taking care of our own end, but of creating some quality chances,” Noreen said.
Team USA goalie Thatcher Demko earned the shutout. Phantoms goaltender Sean Romeo stopped 24 shots.
“We’re very frustrated,” Phantoms co-captain Alexander Dahl said. “I think everyone kind of looked past this game. No one came ready to work and we’ve got 24 hours to figure it out.”
Noreen was pleased that the game was scoreless more than halfway through it.
“Defensively, I wasn’t upset with the way we played,” Noreen said. “I thought our D-zone coverage was good. We limited their odd-man breaks and their Grade A chances.
“But they outworked us a couple of times in front of our own net to score goals.”
Sean Malone’s four-on-four goal ended the scoreless tie midway through the second period and was set up by Scott Savage and Anthony Louis.
Late in the second period, Phantoms forward Sam Anas’ breakaway drew a hooking penalty on defenseman Trevor Hamilton. But that prosperity lasted just 30 seconds when Austin Cangelosi was whistled for holding.
The Nationals capitalized about six minutes into the third period when Hudson Fasching lifted a rebound over a sprawled Romeo for a 2-0 lead. Evan Allen and Tyler Kelleher assisted.
With about six minutes to play, Kelleher’s unassisted power-play goal ended the scoring.
Among those watching were two of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ staff: player development coach Bill Guerin and assistant coach Tony Granato. Granato’s brother, Don, is the Team USA head coach.
Noreen said it doesn’t which team stole two points from the sixth-place Phantoms on their home rink.
“Because of the hole we dug ourselves early in the season, every point is huge, especially in conference” Noreen said. “I don’t think their [split-squad] record does them justice. And they haven’t had their A squad until tonight.”