By TOM WILLIAMS
Scoring four times in the third period, the Youngstown Phantoms rallied to win the Covelli Centre’s first September hockey game.
Forward Austin Cangelosi and defensemen Eric Sweetman, Daniel Renouf and Ryan Lowney scored goals in the final 20 minutes as the Phantoms defeated the Omaha Lancers 5-3 in Friday’s USHL season opener.
Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen estimated that Phantoms defensemen scored fewer than 10 goals in last season’s 64 games.
“The number-one emphasis we made as a staff in the offseason was to get our defensemen more involved offensively,” Noreen said.
Trailing 2-1 after two periods, Cangelosi tied the game 17 seconds later on an assist from Todd Koritzinsky.
“We went hard on the forecheck, Todd was going hard in the corner,” said Cangelosi, who scored 29 goals last season. “He made a nice backhand pass that went, I think, between two defenders legs.
“It was just sitting in front, nobody one me so I whacked it home.”
With eight minutes to go in regulation, Cangelosi stole the puck in the Lancers zone and fed it to Anas. Lancers goalie Alex Lyon stopped the shot, but seconds later, Sweetman scored on an assist by his defensive partner Renouf.
The Lancers weren’t finished — 85 seconds later, Alex Rauter tied the game with a shot that floated like a knuckleball over Phantoms goalie Sean Romeo.
With 2:21 remaining, Lyon sprawled stopping Cangelosi’s backhand attempt and Renouf converged on the puck.
“The puck came loose in the slot and I just got lucky,” said Renouf whose shot hit the low in the corner of the net.
In the final seconds with the Phantoms killing a penalty and the Lancers’ goal empty, Lowney scored a shorthanded empty-netter.
The Phantoms felt much better about the finish than their start that saw them fall behind 1-0 in the first period and then 2-1 .
“We starter out slow,” Renouf said. “It was a lackluster period. Omaha has a fast forecheck, they’re always on the puck.”
Cangelosi described the Phantoms’ opening effort as flat.
“Our energy was low, [but] we rallied the troops in the sceond half,” Cangelosi said. “We were talking on the bench, yelling.”
Noreen said his speech to his players after the first period shouldn’t be called “inspirational. It was more of ‘Wake Up’ — I thought we responded well.”
Noreen said jitters might have been a factor. This was the first time in four seasons that the Phantoms have opened at home.
Renouf described the first intermission chat as “a lot of yelling, a lot of curse words, but it definitely helped.”
Cangelosi said the players were told they needed “to pick it up, that it was unacceptable play.”
Asked if Noreen used those exact words, Cangelosi admitted, “I don’t use as big of words as he does.”
The Phantoms took 20 shots in the second period and tied the game 1-1 on newcomer Alfred Larsson’s goal. Luke Stork set up Larsson on a 2-on-1 breakaway.
But five minutes later, Tyler Hynes put the Lancers ahead by burying a rebound.
Romeo made 26 saves and Lyon 35. Neither team scored a power-play goal (Omaha was 0-for-4, Youngstown 0-for-3).
Six minutes into the game, the Lancers’ Drew Melanson netted the first goal of the USHL season, a benefit of playing in the USHL’s eastern-most city.