By Tom Williams
With their top two scorers representing Team USA in a tournament in Nova Scotia, the Youngstown Phantoms have had to make adjustments during their four-game set against the defending Clark Cup champions.
“It’s been a great opportunity for some of our young guys like Luke Stork and some of our other first-year guys to step in and play minutes they are not used to playing,” Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen said Thursday about the absence of JT Stenglein and Austin Cangelosi. “Austin and JT are our number one and three minute-getters up front so our young guys have had to step up.
“We’re hoping that advances their learning curve [for] later in the season.”
Because Team USA has advanced to the semifinals of the World Junior A Challenge tournament, neither Stenglein nor Cangelosi is expected to be available for this weekend’s games against the Green Bay Gamblers.
“It’s been a big adjustment for all of us,” Noreen said. “First and foremost, it’s a great tribute to those two and the strides our program has made. We’re proud of them.”
With six goals and six assists, Cangelosi leads the Phantoms in scoring with 12 points. Stenglein has five goals and three assists.
Noreen said Stenglein and Cangelosi have done well for Team USA.
“[Wednesday night] in a tight one-goal win, Austin was player of the game,” Noreen said. “They’ve been playing on the top lines and they’ve been a big part of the success for Team USA so far.”
To maintain as much stability as possible, Noreen said his staff has tried to keep pairs of forwards together as much as possible rather than rebuild all four lines.
“For the most part, it’s changed everything,” Noreen said. “It’s changed our power play, it’s changed our penalty kill.”
After opening the season centering the Phantoms’ fourth line, Stork has seen his playing increase. Last season, he played for the Pittsburgh Hornets, a AAA Tier 1 travel team.
“You’ve got to move your feet a lot quicker,” Stork said of adjusting to the USHL. “To make plays, you’ve just got to know where the puck is going to be next.
“I’ve just been trying to work my hardest and keep doing what I do best,” said Stork who is a student at Ursuline High School.
Noreen said Stork’s compete level attracted his staff’s attention when he was being scouted.
“We thought his skill was good enough to play at this level, but [compete level] is what separated him from the rest,” Noreen said. “We knew we wanted him to be part of our program.”
Noreen said Stork’s play has been a pleasant surprise.
“On the ice, he’s done exactly as we expected,” Noreen said. “He’s worked as hard as anybody; he’s a great penalty killer.
“We see him as a guy like [former Phantom forward] Dylan Margonari — we hope he’s able to have that kind of career for us.”
Margonari was a two-way forward in the Phantoms’ first three seasons before moving on to play for Minnesota State this fall.
Last weekend, the Phantoms lost twice to the Gamblers in Green Bay, Wis.
“They are a little bit like us in the sense of they’re a lot younger than last year,” Noreen said. “Their success pulled a lot of players up to the next level.
“But they have a lot of players returning from that championship team.” Noreen said. “Bigger than that, they are a team that ended our season a year ago in the Covelli Centre and that’s something that still stings all of us.
“The new guys got a taste of that rivalry last week.”
Stork described living in Youngstown as “pretty similar to back home. There’s not much that’s different.”
One difference is the long bus rides to such Midwestern states as North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.
“But it’s fun with all guys — they go by quick,” Stork said.
Stork said working harder in the weight room is important because the USHL has bigger bodies.
“Getting stronger for throwing the body around, stuff like that,” Stork said.