By Tom Williams
Scoring two game-winning goals and finishing with a plus-5 rating in the first two games earned the Youngstown Phantoms’ Daniel Renouf the USHL’s Defensive Player of the Week honor.
“It [should be] defenseman of the week,” Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen agreed. “Very rarely do you see that award go to a guy who blocked 18 shots on the weekend. Typically, it’s going to go to the person who produces offense.”
Renouf came through in a major way in both games last weekend at the Covelli Centre. On Friday, Renouf’s third-period goal put the Phantoms ahead for keeps in a 5-3 victory over the Omaha Lancers.
Saturday, JT Stenglein and Austin Cangelosi scored in the final two minutes against the Des Moines Buccaneers to force overtime. Renouf’s goal then ended the 4-3 victory.
“Dan is a guy who doesn’t get enough credit so it was good to see him finally get some,” Stenglein said.
For Renouf, two game-winners within 25 hours was a deja vu experience.
“In a tournament when I was at prep school, I did a very similar thing,” he said. “It was very exciting the way we came back. It was just overwhelming, a huge win for us.”
Those victories have the Phantoms (2-0) off to their best start in the team’s four seasons in the USHL.
With two goals, Renouf already has surpassed his total from last season (one). The Phantoms have two goals scored with their goalie pulled — one more than last season.
Noreen said he doesn’t have a set time when he orders the goalie lifted for an extra attacker, saying he relies on how he feels the game is progressing.
“Is our line that’s out there fresh? Is our line out there that I feel can keep the puck in deep?” Noreen said. “The biggest thing, I feel, is to wait until you have full possession in the offensive zone, no matter what the time is.”
Renouf said he found out about his honor during Monday’s practice.
“A few of the players were razzing me about it,” said Renouf, who obviously didn’t mind the teasing.
While happy with the wins and tasting first place so early, Noreen and Stenglein said the Phantoms have issues to resolve, specifically third-period deficits.
“It’s a good indicator that we need to get better, we need to be more focused on our game and can’t afford to take periods or shifts off,” Noreen said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been in those situations.”
With just four teams in each division now qualifying for the playoffs, Stenglein called getting four points on opening weekend “huge.”
“With every game mattering more this year, you can’t have a slow start,” he said. “Those were kind of character wins, sort of‘Refuse to Lose’ [moments], especially getting those late two goals against Des Moines. I think we also learned that there is a lot of work to do to get where we want to be.
“We’re playing two strong teams this weekend so we can’t afford to come out the way that we did.”
This weekend, the Phantoms will be in Iowa for two games. Friday in Waterloo, the Phantoms will face the defending Western Conference champion Black Hawks (2-0). On Saturday, they will be in Cedar Rapids to face the RoughRiders (1-1).
Noreen said the positive from those rallies “is that if we’re ever down two goals late in a game, it’s something we can draw back on. It’s something we know that we’ve done before, which is obviously a good thing to have in your back pocket to put confidence in the guys.”