By Tom Williams
Youngstown Phantoms goaltender Sean Romeo tried to ignore the milestones that were at stake in Friday night’s USHL game against the Indiana Ice.
It wasn’t easy.
“My roommates kind of brought it up at dinner and I tried not to listen to them,” said Romeo after the Phantoms’ 5-3 victory on Friday at the Covelli Centre. “But I had a little bit of an idea of what was going on tonight.”
Plenty. The win gives Romeo 28 this season, tying the mark Matt O’Connor set last season.
Records set in the Phantoms’ eighth straight home victory were most wins in a season (33), most wins at home in a season (19) and most USHL shorthanded goals in a career (11) by a player (Austin Cangelosi).
“Something we still talk about is building a legacy,” Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen said. “The bottom line is that no matter what happens the rest of the way, [those records] are part of these guys’ legacy.
“Those are special things,” Noreen said. “Those are things you’ll look back on as a player and never forget.”
The Phantoms’ win combined with the Chicago Steel’s 4-1 loss to the Muskegon Lumberjacks reduced Youngstown’s magic number to clinching their second straight playoff berth to two.
The fourth-place Phantoms (33-22-0, 66 points) can clinch the final spot if Chicago loses tonight to Team USA or if the Phantoms defeat Team USA on Sunday in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The win was anything but certain even though the Phantoms had a three-goal lead in the third period on Alfred Larsson’s goal.
The Ice (19-32-5, 43 points) made things very interesting with two goals in 17 seconds. Jason Salvaggio’s power-play goal was followed by Joseph Widmar’s goal off a deflection.
Romeo saved his best for last. Defenseman Eric Sweetman’s penalty for holding gave the Ice a power play with 1:51 remaining. Ice coach Jeff Brown put goaltender Anderson Snair on the bench for a six-on-four advantage.
Moments later, Romeo stopped Mikhail Plotnikov from point-blank range with a kick save to preserve the 4-3 lead.
“i would compare that to the save he made against Green Bay a couple of weeks ago — a game saver,” Noreen said. “That was huge.”
Romeo said he had just enough time to see Plotnikov “pop loose to the side. I was kind of down and out, just snapped my leg up there.”
“It was kind of desperation, really,” Romeo said.
Romeo made one more save. Then Cangelosi sealed the victory, stripping the puck from the Ice near the Phantoms’ blue line, smacking it ahead against the boards and then outracing the Ice to retrieve the puck for an empty-net shorthanded tally.
“I knew once he touched the puck, he was going to score,” Romeo said.
“Once he gets in a foot race, he’s not going to lose,” the coach said.
Ryan Lowney, Kyle Connor and Cam Brown scored the Phantoms’ other goals.
“Romeo played great, made a huge save at the end,” said Connor whose goal came on a two-on-one break. Cangelosi carried the puck deep into the Indiana zone then backhanded a pass to Connor for an easy tip-in.
Connor wasn’t surprised at Cangelosi’s record-breaking goal.
“I knew once he had the puck, he was going to score,” Connor said. “He’s probably the fastest guy in the league.”