Steel spoil Phantoms bid for second place
Phantoms will start playoffs on road
By Tom Williams
On the final day of the USHL regular season, the Youngstown Phantoms know they won’t have home-ice advantage to start next week’s playoffs.
Despite peppering Chicago Steel goaltender Alex Sakellaropoulos with 48 shots, the Phantoms flopped in their final chase for second place, losing 3-2 on Friday to a team they had beaten in all seven of their other meetings.
Forty-five minutes after the Covelli Centre game ended, the Green Bay Gamblers (36-23-4, 76 points) sealed second place with a 3-1 victory over the fourth-place Muskegon Lumberjacks (31-22-10, 72 points). The Gamblers own the tiebreaker over the Phantoms (37-26-0, 74 points) based on their 4-1 series record.
The Phantoms and Gamblers will meet in the first round, a best-of-five series that begins on Wednesday and Thursday in Green Bay.
Games three and four will be played at the Covelli Centre on April 20-21. The April 20 game will begin at 7:15 p.m. If necessary, the April 21 game will begin at 4 p.m.
“We can build off this adversity,” forward John Padulo said after the Phantoms lost their third straight home game.
With 67 seconds remaining in regulation and the Phantoms’ net empty, forward Cam Brown beat Sakellaropoulos with a wrist-shot to slice Chicago’s lead to 3-2.
But that was the last shot the Phantoms put on net. Sakellaropoulos finished with 46 saves while Chicago’s penalty killers stopped the Phantoms on seven of eight power-play chances.
“It’s pretty frustrating, we really wanted second place,” Brown said of the chase ending one game sooner than they hoped. “Their [defense] did play well tonight, but I think we did not get below the goal line enough.”
Brown suggested this loss might provide “a little kick in the butt, give us a little wake-up call.”
Early in the second period, the Steel’s Alex Roos and Tyler Heinonen beat Phantoms goalie Sean Romeo for a 2-0 lead.
The Phantoms responded with Austin Cangelosi’s power-play goal created after Brown charged toward the Steel goal.
“I was driving to the net, went behind the goal line and threw it in front,” Brown said.
The puck deflected off Padulo to Cangelosi at the side of the net and he tapped it in for his 21st goal.
“I was trying to [pass] to Cangelosi,” Brown admitted.
But with 4:42 remaining in the second period, Tim Davison tapped a backhand pass from Tyler Hill past Romeo for a 3-1 lead.
Moments later, the game turned bizarre when Padulo and Steel forward Charlie O’Connor tangled in front of the Chicago bench. On the bench, Steel forward Danny Fetzer joined in the fray and was ejected.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Padulo said. “I saw on the Jumbotron that a couple of their guys were trying to give me shots in the back.”
When the officials finished sorting out the melee, the Phantoms were awarded a three-minute power play. Another Chicago penalty made it a two-man advantage for a full two minutes. That bonus carried over into the third period and the Phantoms failed to capitalize.
“This loss took a little wind out of us,” Brown said.