By JOE CATULLO JR.
When the final buzzer sounded Friday night at the Covelli Centre, Markus McCrea and his Youngstown Phantoms teammates began thinking about tonight’s rematch.
“Obviously we’re really [ticked] off,” McCrea said after a 6-2 loss. “We’ve got to sleep it off, come back tomorrow, look in the mirror and see where everybody can do better.”
The loss keeps the Phantoms (13-16-0, 26 points) in seventh place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. However, coach Anthony Noreen is not panicking.
“There’s one thing you’ll learn about me, and I’ll make it very clear right now is we’ll never push the panic button, especially on this group of guys,” Noreen said.
The second-place Lumberjacks (19-10-3, 41 points) scored the game’s first goal with 10:59 remaining in the first period. Ben Foster collected his 10th goal season during a Muskegon power play.
Exactly one minute later, the Phantoms returned the favor as McCrea connected on his ninth goal.
“At that time, we were playing really well,” McCrea said. “Still a little flat on the bench, but there’s no excuse for what happened tonight.”
Trailing 2-1, McCrea attempted to shake up the confident Lumberjacks by brawling with Patrick Koudys. In turn, the Lumberjacks used the fight as momentum. They went on to score two more times each in the second and third periods.
“They capitalized on their chances, and we didn’t when we had ours,” Noreen said. “They’re a special team, which was probably the difference in the game.”
Cam Brown scored the Phantoms’ other goal with 8.5 seconds remaining. It was Brown’s fifth this season and his first as a Phantom since being traded on Nov. 23.
One big move Noreen made was pulling goaltender Sean Romeo for Jake Moore after Muskegon scored its fourth goal with 9:39 remaining in the second period. Noreen said he tried to change the momentum and will start Romeo tonight.
“Honestly, at that point I was glad to get out of there,” Romeo said. “I was hurting the team. I wasn’t upset with it.”
Not only is the loss Youngstown’s 16th this year, but it’s also the eighth at home against seven wins.
“We need to be better at home, we need to be better on the road, and we definitely need to improve as a team,” Noreen said.