By Tom Williams
Once Friday’s USHL action ended and the Youngstown Phantoms were locked into third place in the Eastern Conference standings, an invitation went out to the team’s nearby affiliate players.
Six responded, including four defensemen. That enabled Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen to move defenseman Dan Renouf to forward for Saturday’s regular-season finale while resting six regular starters.
Renouf normally would have sat out but he had more than a dozen family members visiting from Ontario.
“I wanted to play,” said Renouf after a 3-0 loss to the Chicago Steel capped the Phantoms’ most successful season.
Youngstown (37-27-0, 74 points) made the playoffs for the second straight season and will play second seed Green Bay in the first round. The five-game series opens Wednesday in Green Bay and returns to the Covelli Centre next weekend.
Noreen put Renouf on a line with Austin Cangelosi and Sam Anas, who remains tied with two others for the league lead in goals (37).
“We had to take care of our bodies,” said Noreen of giving goaltender Sean Romeo; defensemen Tommy Davis, Eric Sweetman and Ryan Lowney; and forwards Cam Brown and John Padulo a night off. “Obviously, Austin, Sammy and Danny didn’t see much ice time as our fourth line.
“We wanted to ease up on [their] minutes,” Noreen said. “We probably used them three times a period.”
Renouf, who will play for the University of Maine next fall, admitted it took him a while to remember he was a forward.
“Basically, every time I was going to the bench, I was going to the D-zone [spot of the bench],” Renouf said. “I kind of caught on to it in the third period.”
In the first period, Renouf was stopped on a breakaway by Steel goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos, who made 22 saves.
Anas’ best scoring chance came in the third period when Cangelosi fed him the puck in the slot.
“It was a very unselfish play by [Cangelosi],” said Anas, who did not get a shot off. “[The defender] kind of lifted my stick, possible hook.”
Defenseman Alex Carle was already in town, having played in Friday’s 3-2 loss to Chicago. Forward Kiefer Sherwood, goalie Colin DeAugstine and defensemen Matt Miller, Tommy Parran and Shawn Brennan joined Carle for the Fan Appreciation Game before more than 2,000 fans at the Covelli Centre.
Carle’s brother is Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matt Carle. Miller’s brother is East Palestine native J.T. Miller of the New York Rangers.
Tyler Hill scored two goals and Patrick Polino the other. Phantoms goalie Jake Moore made 24 saves.