The Youngstown Phantoms entered their holiday break in the midst of a five-game losing streak and having dropped eight of their last 10 contests.
Not much changed in their return to the ice Friday night at the Covelli Centre, as the Indiana Ice used a short-handed scoring attack and timely goaltending to earn two points in the standings and a 4-0 road win.
Not only did the Phantoms (7-14-5, 19 points) fail to convert on any of their three power-play opportunities, but twice they allowed the Ice (15-5-4, 34 points) to score with a man in the penalty box.
“You give up a short-handed goal, you don’t deserve to win the hockey game,” Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said. “You give up two, you definitely don’t deserve to win.
“It can’t happen. You’ve got to find a way to not let that happen.”
The first came at the 11:18 mark of the second period, with the Ice already ahead 1-0. Phantoms forward Ryan Schwalbe mishandled the puck at the top of the offensive zone that the Ice turned into a two-on-one break the other way. Scott Conway centered the puck to a streaking Patrick Newell, who redirected it past a defenseless Sean Romeo in net to extend the Ice’s lead to 2-0.
The second was midway through the final period with the score still the same. Ice forward Aidan Muir skated with the puck into the offensive zone with two Phantoms draped on top of him. As he fell to the ice, with his back to the net, Muir flipped the puck over his should and past Romeo, who was down in the butterfly position attempting to poke at the puck with his stick.
“Special teams is huge in games. I mean it definitely brings down the team chemistry on the bench,” Phantoms forward Josh Nenedal said. “We didn’t respond well to it and we just have to focus on getting better.”
Nenedal was the best player on the ice early in the first period, catching the post in the first minute and leveling an Ice player into the boards on the next shift. The Phantoms had to kill off two penalties in the first frame, as Romeo was sharp in net stopping seven shots on the penalty kills.
“We had a good first shift, we hit a bar, and unfortunately we couldn’t capitalize,” Nenedal said. “We have to come out with more energy, more fire, and more passion, and play for a hard 60 [minutes] every night.
The first good scoring chance of the second period came when Romeo lost sight of the puck with heavy traffic in front of the net. Ice forward Tyler Pham was the beneficiary, poking the loose puck behind Romeo for the game’s first score.
After recording just two shots the entire second period, the Phantoms registered four shots on goal in the first two minutes of the third. Ice goaltender Jason Pawloski was up to the challenge each time, improving to 13-3-3 on the season with the shutout.
“I’d like to see more [quality chances], but having said that Josh Nenedal hits a crossbar early in the first, I think Matt Miller hit a post ... we had our chances,” Noreen said. “I thought he made some big-time saves, but at times though I thought we did hit him in the chest.”