Fight-filled win pushes Youngstown within striking distance of first USHL playoff berth
By Tom WILLIAMS
Some might remember Wednesday’s 6-3 victory by the Youngstown Phantoms as the night the team moved into second place in the Eastern Conference.
Others at the Covelli Centre game against the Indiana Ice might recall that the Phantoms reduced their magic number to clinching their first USHL playoff berth to two (points earned by the Phantoms or not earned by the Muskegon Lumberjacks).
But most who were watching will remember it for the second period that featured four fights — and maybe even the four goals by the Phantoms in that frame.
“That’s the first time,” said Phantoms’ leading goal scorer J.T. Stenglein of his Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist and fight). “I didn’t realize it until now.”
Stenglein scored twice as the Phantoms jumped out to a 4-0 lead early in the second period against the then-second-place Ice. Then the fisticuffs erupted.
“I don’t blame them — they were trying to get momentum back,” Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said.
Frustrated, Indiana’s John Doherty dropped his gloves against Ryan Belonger and was soon flung to the ice for his trouble.
The Ice responded with two goals in 32 seconds to climb back into the game. Joe Fiala and Sean Kuraly beat Phantoms goaltender Matt O’Connor to slice the Phantoms’ lead to 4-2.
More battles followed as the Ice’s Woody Hudson brawled with Daniel Renouf, knocking him to the ice. However, Hudson was ejected for instigating the fight.
This fight proved inspirational to the Phantoms as Austin Cangelosi scored his 23rd goal on the ensuing power play for a 5-2 lead.
That prompted Christian Hillbrich and Pat Conte to go at it and be ejected for fighting after the whistle.
When Ice defenseman Jose Delgadillo went after Zach Evancho, Stenglein stepped in and fought before the whistle (keeping them eligible).
“I got lucky there,” Stenglein said.
Noreen was pleased his veterans stood tall.
“Our guys who did have to go did a good job,” said Noreen, who added that when the Ice targeted smaller Phantoms, “guys stepped up to the plate and went after them.”
The Phantoms (29-14-5, 63 points) dominated the Ice (28-13-6, 62 points) from midway through the first period. After Soren Jonzzon’s opening goal, Stenglein scored his first goal on a feed by Dylan Margonari for a quick 2-0 lead.
“Alex Gacek forced the turnover at our blue line and Margo carried it and made a great pass across the slot,” Stenglein said. “It was sort of a back-door shot.
“There have been a lot of opportunities where we’ve had back-door plays but we’ve not capitalized on,” Stenglein said. “So after that goal, we said to each other ‘about time.’ ”
Margonari scored the Phantoms’ sixth goal to come up a fight short of his own Howe hat trick.
“We’re in second — that’s a big step for us,” said Margonari who has been a Phantom for all three USHL seasons. “Hopefully we can beat these guys Friday night and put a little gap between us.”