Under normal circumstances, no one would be surprised Sam Anas scored three goals last weekend in two games against the Indiana Ice. The second-year Youngstown Phantoms forward, the alternate captain to Austin Cangelosi and Alexander Dahl, leads the team in goals scored (19).
These goals were different, coming after Anas suffered a severe cut on the back of his upper right leg that required 12 stitches in the middle of Friday night’s 5-1 victory at the Covelli Centre.
Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen wasn’t surprised Anas shook off the pain to return to the game.
“After he got [the stitches], he walks back out and on his first shift he scores a goal,” Noreen said. “It was probably the difference in the game, the third goal.”
Although he was a bit shaken up to find blood soaking his garments, Anas said there was little doubt in his mind that he would return if given medical clearance.
The injury came on a routine hockey play that turned into an ugly accident.
“I was in the corner and threw a hit on a guy,” Anas said. “He went down and I fell on top of him.
“I landed right on his skate blade,” Anas said. “It went through my pants, through my jock, through my boxers — sliced right through.”
At first, Anas thought nothing was seriously wrong as he got up and skated to the bench.
“I thought I had a dead leg so I got off [the ice} and checked it,” Anas said. “I gave it a little touch and didn’t see much [blood].
“Then I [reached] under and touched the skin and all three of my fingers were covered in blood,” Anas said.
Anas went to the locker room to have his leg examined and for many players, that would be the end of their night on the ice. Twelve stitches later, Anas returned to the locker room to see that his teammates were back in the arena for the second period.
“There really wasn’t a question in my mind if I was coming back, it was just a matter of when,” Anas said. “I missed a couple of minutes in the second period.
“Other than that, I felt fine — it was numbed up.”
Anas’ goal helped the Phantoms secure their sixth straight victory, a franchise record.
When Anas awoke on Saturday, pain greeted him.
“It was pretty sore,” Anas admitted. ”All those needles [they put] in me, my leg was pretty bruised.”
He used Advil and applied ice before the team’s morning skate.
“I figured I would test it out, see how it feels,” Anas said. “I went for a skate and it felt good.”
His teammates weren’t surprised he was willing to try.
“The stuff he does is just incredible,” defenseman Eric Sweetman said. “The fact that he had stitches in his leg just shows what kind of player he is.”
“He’s a hockey player, that’s a reason why he wears a letter for us,” Noreen said. “He’s as tough as anybody there is in the league.”
The Phantoms came out flat Saturday night, falling behind 3-0 in the first period. Anas’ first goal cut the Ice advantage to two goals, but Indiana later scored on a 5-on-3 power play for a 4-1 lead.
Late in the second period, Sweetman sent a long rebound past Ice goaltender Dalton Izyk for the Phantoms’ second goal.
A few minutes later, Anas stripped Ice defenseman Peter Hand of the puck near the Indiana blue line then beat Izyk for his second goal.
It wasn’t enough. The Phantoms outshot the Ice 14-4 in the third period, but Indiana hung on for a 4-3 victory.
Anas was pleased that his team didn’t quit.
“It definitely showed a lot about us, that we can compete, especially after a start like that,” he said. “It’s good to know that we can fight back.
“In the end, those are the types of games that we’re going to have to win down the stretch. It was a good effort, but not good enough.”
Sweetman said the slow start taught a costly lesson to a squad in a four-team chase for the USHL Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
“It was good to see that we could battle like that,” the second-year defender said. “It’s just that we’ve got to start doing that from the beginning. We can’t wait until the second or third period.”
Noreen said: “Everyone is frustrated when you feel that you didn’t have your best for 60 minutes. We didn’t feel like it was our best for 60. Even more frustrating, we had chances. Even though we spotted them three, we had chances to get back in it and to kind of steal it.
“I felt that the effort was good,” Noreen said. “Sometimes you just wish better for the guys. Their effort in the second and third deserved [a better outcome], but you’ve got to learn a lesson from it.”
Tom Williams is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.