By Tom Williams
With six days off between games over a Christmas break, Youngstown Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen tried to give his players as much time off as possible.
Mother Nature earned an assist on Noreen’s goal.
Wednesday’s snowstorm in the Midwest and Northeast made traveling hazardous, causing a few of the hockey players delayed returns to Ohio.
After Friday’s practice at the Covelli Centre, Noreen said 16 of his 23 players were back in time for Thursday’s workout.
“That was to get them skating again,” Noreen said. “That was also giving them the day to travel. We tried to make their break as long as we possibly could.”
Last Saturday, the Phantoms (12-15-0, 24 points) defeated Team USA, 3-0, at the Covelli Centre. Then they spent Sunday traveling to be with their families.
Noreen wanted his players get some rest in familiar surroundings.
Forward John Padulo’s drive home to Rochester, N.Y., normally takes about four hours. Seventeen inches of snow made coming back difficult.
“We got [the snow Wednesday] and it carried on Thursday until about noon,” Padulo said. “It was a mess everywhere, the roads were sloppy. My parents didn’t want me to leave [in dangerous conditions], obviously.”
Padulo waited until Friday morning to leave.
“It was a nice drive,” he said.
Defenseman Dan Renouf also missed Thursday’s practice, but not because of the weather.
“I got stopped at the border for four hours,” said Renouf who lives near Toronto in Ontario. “I didn’t have my documents so it was a four-hour detour.”
Renouf says he’s been crossing the U.S.-Canadian border regularly without full documentation.
“This was the first time they nabbed me,” said Renouf, who was with his father. “Usually, it’s quick because they probably see that I’ve been traveling back and forth so often.”
After being released from the Buffalo, N.Y., border station, the Renoufs made it as far as Erie, Pa., before stopping for rest and finishing the trip Friday.
Tonight, the Phantoms return to the Covelli Centre to face the Indiana Ice (12-17-2, 24 points). They’ll have two home games next weekend against the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
“It was good to be home with family,” Padulo said. “I don’t get to see them much. It means a lot to my grandparents. Getting a break from hockey was kind of good to rest the body.”
Unlike most of his teammates, Padulo hit the ice on Sunday at a high school alumni game.
“It was fun to see some familiar faces from back in high school,” said Padulo, who admitted he was a little winded when he hit the ice Friday.
“But I felt better as I got going,” Padulo said.