By Greg gulas
The Youngstown Phantoms will be glad when December and the 2013 portion of their schedule is over.
The Indiana Ice will hate to say goodbye to the old year.
Jason Salvaggio scored two goals while Scott Conway added a goal and assist as the Ice stopped the Phantoms, 5-4, in USHL Eastern Conference action Saturday at the Covelli Centre.
The win left the Ice (16-5-4, 36 points) with a 6-0-1 mark for the month as they remained atop the conference standings while the Phantoms (7-15-5, 19 points) fell to 0-4-3 in December and are in last place in the conference.
“Anytime you play a team eight or nine times within the conference you are going to have a battle. We just need one of these games to fall our way,” Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said. “We had our chances but couldn’t take advantage. We made mistakes on two of their goals and in games like this you need to finish if you expect to win.”
Less than 24 hours after suffering their first shutout of the season, the Phantoms needed just 52 seconds to get on the board when J.J. Piccinich’s 16th goal gave Youngstown the early goal advantage.
The power play opportunity broke a 60:08 scoring drought for the Phantoms, who were outshot 36-27 by their conference rival.
The Ice tied the game at a goal apiece when Scott Conway’s shot, assisted by Dwyer Tschantz, made its way to the back of the net at 5:05 of the opening frame.
It was Conway’s team-leading 14th goal of the campaign.
The Ice scored early in the second frame when Jason Salvaggio’s wrister got by Phantoms goalie Sean Romeo for a 2-1 lead.
Indiana increased its lead to 3-1 at 6:48 after an Aidan Muir tally, but Youngstown’s Conor Lemirande pulled Youngstown back to within a goal just 95 seconds later on its second power play goal.
For Lemirande, it was his first goal and just his seventh point of the season.
A goal by Indiana’s Mitch Hults at 11:08 helped Indiana to a 4-2 lead while Romeo prevented any further damage when he stopped a Patrick Newell penalty shot just 28 seconds later.
Youngstown scored first in the final period to keep the game within striking distance as Max Letunov registered the first of his two goals at 4:59 to cut the Indiana margin to 4-3.
Salvaggio’s empty net goal with 1:35 remaining gave the Ice a 5-3 lead but Letunov’s second score with 12 seconds left was too little, too late.
“It’s nice to take two in a row on the road, especially against a tough team like Youngstown because they work hard, have a lot of talent and make you earn everything you get,” Salvaggio stated. “We have four lines that we rely on and needed all four of those lines tonight.”
Ice coach Jeff Brown, whose team improved to 8-3-1 on the road, called the Phantoms a tough team for which to prepare.
“I really don’t know how they are in last place because they battle to the end and have excellent goaltending,” Brown noted. “They are without question my least favorite team to play, either at home or on the road.”
The Phantoms fell to 5-7-2 at the Covelli Centre.