Phantoms lose despite spirited rally
By Tom Williams
An early three-goal deficit spelled doom for the Youngstown Phantoms’ longest winning streak.
Saturday at the Covelli Centre, the Indiana Ice scored three goals in the first period then added another scored on a 5-on-3 advantage to defeat the Phantoms, 4-3, snapping the team’s first six-game winning streak in its four seasons in the USHL.
“The bottom line, the lesson that we learned, you can’t spot any team three goals in this league,” Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen said. “Whether it’s the best team or the worst, teams are just too good.”
Austin Ortega’s second goal of the game came with two Phantoms in the penalty box and gave Indiana a 4-1 lead.
That’s when the Phantoms surged to make the game much more interesting after a lackluster start.
“Once we got down 3-0, we did a great job of staying composed, getting ourselves back in the game,” Noreen said. “But it was too little, too late.”
Eric Sweetman’s power-play goal with 4:01 in the second period sliced the Ice lead to 4-2. The Phantoms defenseman smacked a long rebound off Ice goaltender Dalton Izyk’s pads into the net. John Padulo set up the power-play goal with a long shot that Izyk couldn’t control.
“I was surprised by how perfect it was,” said Sweetman of the rebound. “It was right on my tape. I just saw a little bit of the net and decided to shoot.”
Kyle Connor also earned an assist on the goal.
Late in the second period, Anas stripped Ice defender Peter Hand of the puck just outside the Indiana blue line. Anas skated in untouched and used a fake backhand shot to slip the puck under Izyk’s pads for his second goal.
“He was coming at me and I was giving him some space,” Anas said. “I stepped up on him and I think he lost an edge. The puck bounced, I took the puck and he fell.”
The Phantoms (19-17-0, 38 points) dominated the third period, outshooting the Ice, 14-4. But Izyk was equal to the task, stopping everything fired at him. The Ice (16-23-3, 35 points) skated off three penalties in the final 20 minutes.
The Phantoms were skating uphill right from the start after being penalized for an illegal substitution. The Phantoms had submitted a starting lineup that had Jake Moore in goal, but Sean Romeo was the starter.
Ortega’s first goal came five minutes later, set up by Rinat Valiev. Alex Talcott made it 2-0 when he slipped a backhand shot under Romeo’s pads. Canon Pieper held the puck near the blue line then passed it to Talcott unguarded in the slot.
Zach Aman’s goal late in the first period gave Indiana a 3-0 lead.
“The effort was there in the second period, the effort was there in the third,” said Noreen of the Phantoms’ first loss since Jan. 4. “I don’t think it was so much the effort in the first [period], it was the execution, a little bit of a lack of awareness that led to those first three goals.”
Six minutes into the second period, Anas’s first goal helped the Phantoms shed their opening funk. But Ortega’s second goal restored Indiana’s three-goal advantage.
Romeo finished 22 saves, none bigger than when he stopped Matt Krug on a breakaway in the third period.