Phantoms defenseman Dan Renouf, forward Cam Brown and goaltender Sean Romeo will be teammates in college
By Tom Williams
For the second-straight season, three Youngstown Phantoms will move on to the next level of hockey together.
Last season, captain Mike Ambrosia, defenseman Kevin Liss and forward Jonathan Liau (who came to Youngstown in a midseason trade) chose Princeton as their college destination.
This season, defenseman Dan Renouf, forward Cam Brown (who came to the team in an early season trade) and goaltender Sean Romeo eventually will be teammates again at the University of Maine.
In more ways than one, they are the team’s “Maine Ingredient.”
Romeo has backstopped the Phantoms to 23 wins and is on pace to challenge Matthew O’Connor’s franchise record of 28 wins in a season. With five shutouts, Romeo already has the most in the team’s four-year history.
“He’s stepped up and become the backbone of our team,” Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen said.
Brown, who was traded to the Phantoms on Thanksgiving from the Sioux City Musketeers, is centering the Phantoms’ second line. His 23 points include nine goals.
With 20 points, Renouf continues to lead the team in plus/minus with +23.
With eight wins in their past nine games, the Phantoms (28-20-0, 56 points) are closing in on their second straight playoff berth even with 25 percent of the season still to play.
Brown and Renouf, who made their college decisions before coming to Youngstown, will become Black Bears this summer. Romeo, in his first season as the Phantoms’ number-one netminder, is planning to go to college in 2014.
“I visited a lot of schools,” said Renouf, a second-year defenseman from the Toronto suburb of Pickering, Ont. “The thing that stood out about Maine was the atmosphere in the Alfond Arena — it’s second to none.
“I would always go to the other schools and compare it to Alfond,” Renouf said. “It’s obviously a good hockey program, a hockey factory to produce NHL players and that’s my final goal.”
Brown, who hails from Natick, Mass., said, “As soon as I was on campus, I pretty much fell in love with the rink and the school. The tradition really caught my eye.”
Romeo is from Cary, N.C., a small city outside of Raleigh. He didn’t make his decision until January. He said conversations with his teammates were factors in his choice, but not the main reason.
“Maine speaks for its self — I really didn’t need anyone to convince me to go there,” said Romeo, who was O’Connor’s backup last season and could play against him when Maine plays Boston University. “But having [Renouf] going there made it easier to commit because I’ll know someone.
“It kind of helped me a lot to talk to the coaches and get the whole process moving.” Romeo said. “I don’t know if [Renouf] really helped convince me but I think he helped convince the coaches.”
Maine is a member of Hockey East, one of college’s powerhouse hockey leagues.
“It was a tough decision at first because it is a big decision,” Renouf said. “It’s the next four years of my life.
“But I felt Maine was like a home to me so it [ended up being] an easy decision.”
Romeo said the recruiting process gathered steam after the preseason Fall Classic last September. That’s where all 16 USHL teams converge for exhibitions watched by a multitude of hockey scouts.
“I talked to a bunch of the schools after the last game,” said Romeo of the Fall Classic. “[Maine was] the one I was most interested in,
“I talked to them the weekend after that, then I didn’t talk to them for a while,” the goaltender said. “It started picking up more at Christmas time — we were talking on the phone once a week.
“[When] they made an offer, I decided later that week.”
For Brown, his decision will help his parents see him play more often. His hometown is about four hours away.
“They will be able to catch all the games — my Mom and Dad are real excited about that, as well as my siblings,” said Brown, who plans to major in business or communications.
But for the parents of Renouf and Romeo, it will take more than a leisurely drive to see home games.
“My parents love to watch me play, but we couldn’t pass up on Maine,” said Renouf who estimated that his parents’ driving time to Orono, ME., would be about double what it is now from Ontario to Ohio.
“Although the location is far from my home, it’s worth it.”
Romeo estimated it would take his parents about 15 hours to drive to Maine (compared to the 10 it takes to get to Ohio).
“It would be a lot — I don’t think they would drive it,” said Romeo who plans to study accounting because his parents are CPAs. “[Maine is] a hockey powerhouse, they agreed it was a good fit so they gave me the green light.
“With Notre Dame going into that conference, I think it’s going to be the best league in college hockey. And that’s definitely where I want to be.”