Controversial decision has Phantoms facing ouster

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The Phantoms’ Eric Sweetman breaks away from John Stevens of the Fighting Saints during Game 1 of the USHL Eastern Conference final on Friday at the Mystique Community Ice Center in Dubuque, Iowa. Youngstown thought it scored late in Saturday’s Game 2, but the goal light did not go on in the 3-1 loss.

Controversial DECISION has Youngstown facing ouster

Staff report

A controversial no-goal has the Youngstown Phantoms extra-motivated for tonight’s Game 3 of their USHL Eastern Conference final against the Dubuque Fighting Saints. In Saturday’s Game 2 at the Mystique Community Ice Center in Dubuque, the Phantoms trailed 2-1 in the third period when they thought defenseman Jimmy Mazza scored.

On the shift following Frankie DiChiara’s go-ahead goal, Mazza launched a shot from the right point that squirted past Saints goaltender Arthur Brey and appeared to roll end-over-end across the goal line.

However, the buzzer did not sound, the goal lamp did not light and the referee did not raise his arm. Then Dubuque defenseman Mike Downing scooped the puck out and fired it away from the net.

The Saints went on to win 3-1 after an empty-net goal scored with 12 seconds remaining to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

“They didn’t think the puck was in the net,” Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen said of the officials. “Our guys along with some bystanders swear it was in, but I can’t comment from where I was standing.

“Just watch the video. That’s all I’ll say. Watch the video.”

Sunday, the Phantoms traveled back to Ohio to get ready for tonight’s Game 3 at the Covelli Centre.

If the Phantoms win, Game 4 will be played there on Tuesday. If Game 5 is needed, it will be played on Saturday in Dubuque.

The series opened Friday with the Saints winning, 3-2. Despite losing the two close games, Noreen said his players need to remain positive.

“I told the guys: ‘listen, there’s nothing to hang your head about after that effort,’” the second-year head coach said. “We gave them every bit of everything we had.

“For one reason or another it didn’t go tonight, but that [style of] hockey will win us a game in Youngstown if we can play that for 60 minutes,” Noreen said.

Alfred Larsson’s goal in the second period gave the Phantoms their first lead of the series. The 6-foot-4 center walked a puck out from behind the net and put it on goal and then dug away and was able to knock it past Brey to give the Saints their first deficit of the postseason.

The lead did not last long as Dubuque tied the game just 33 seconds later. Kyle Mackenzie lofted a wrist shot from the left point that redirected off a Youngstown defenseman’s glove and past goaltender Sean Romeo.

“I don’t think they turned the tables on us by any means,” Noreen said. “They throw a puck in from the point, I still don’t know how it found it’s way to the back of the net.

“But we scored that goal and I thought it was the best hockey we’ve played of the playoffs from that point on.”

The Saints took the lead early in the third period. Karsson Kuhlman threw a shot on net and DiChiara secured the rebound, took it behind the net, wrapped it around and slipped it inside the far post for his third goal and ninth point of the postseason.

Romeo finished with 25 saves.

Noreen says the Phantoms must respond with a strong effort in front of their fans.

“It’s the same situation if we would’ve won [Game 2],” Noreen said. “We’ve got to go back home and win two games.”

Brey (5-0-0) is undefeated in the playoffs and made 23 saves. The Saints’ empty-net goal by Kuhlman came on the power play, one of the Saints’ two man-advantage opportunities.

The Phantoms’ power play had no chances in Game 2.

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