By Joe Catullo
Before jumping into his car and heading west to his hometown of Chicago, coach Anthony Noreen energized his Phantoms against Team USA on Saturday night.
Youngstown did not show its energy and effort Friday night in a shutout loss, but turned the table and beat the Nationals, 3-0, behind a strong defensive effort at the Covelli Centre.
“I think the energy and the effort was the biggest part of it,” Noreen said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on. First and foremost, that has to be there, and that’s just the type of team we are.”
The Phantoms (12-15-0) mainly played defense throughout the first two periods as Team USA (6-18-3) collected 23 shots on goal. They had numerous breakaway opportunities, but could not beat goalie Sean Romeo, who said his team made the stops easy.
“I thought we did a really good job defending,” Noreen said. “Sean did a good job in the net. I thought our defense did a great job in eliminating the mistakes, and I thought our energy was as good as it has been all year.”
Romeo said before Saturday night’s game that Noreen made sure the Phantoms would play strong defense, and go out mentally and physically ready even after a 3-0 defeat the night before.
“We could be fully rested and come out flat or dead tired and come out with a lot of jump, so it’s all about preparation for us and just being excited to play,” Romeo said.
The Phantoms scored their first goal at 2:51 of the first period. Tommy Davis assisted Luke Stork’s eighth goal.
Sam Anas connected on his 12th goal midway in the second period to put Youngstown up by two. Later in the game Davis sealed the deal with his fourth goal at the 4:30 mark in the third period. But Davis said the game was far from over at that point.
“You never know because that team’s so dangerous, and every team in our league is dangerous, but that was a nice insurance,” he said.
Although Team USA is 12 games below .500, Noreen said the Nationals are one of the best teams they’ll face all year. Youngstown is 3-1 against Team USA this season.
“You know against this team that you’re not going to get many opportunities,” Noreen said. “The players that are on the team are there for a reason. That’s the best our country has.”
Noreen will return to Youngstown after Christmas for the Phantoms’ next practice on Thursday before they host on the Indiana Ice at home Saturday. The Phantoms sit in seventh place out of eight teams in the United States Hockey League’s Eastern Conference. Team USA is last.
“We were just flat last night, and our energy comes from the bench and picking each other up,” Davis said. “That was missing last night. That was the reason why we didn’t come out on top. It was all there [tonight], and we put it together.”