By Tom Williams
During his two seasons as a Youngstown Phantom, Sam Anas has displayed some fancy moves and stickwork to score goals.
He demonstrated once of his niftiest on Saturday in breaking the franchise record for goals in a season. It was the Phantoms’ only highlight during Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Cedar Rapids at the Covelli Centre.
“I have no issue with the way we played the game tonight,” Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said after his team’s third straight loss and second in two nights. “We outshot them, we out-chanced them for the most part. We were physical, played with passion and heart.
“It just didn’t go our way.”
The sixth-place RoughRiders (24-29-7, 55 points) out-scored the fourth-place Phantoms (33-25-0, 66 points) 3-0 in the third period, including Gerald Mayhew’s empty-net goal. The Phantoms’ collapse in the final 20 minutes echoed Friday’s 6-3 loss to Cedar Rapids and threw a damper on the Anas milestone.
With the game tied 1-1 and the Phantoms on the power play, Anas took advantage of the RoughRiders’ defensemen being out of position.
He took the puck from behind the cage but slipped as he moved toward the front. Sliding on his knees, Anas swiped the puck past startled RoughRiders goaltender Chris Birdsall to break JT Stenglein’s record set last season.
“I was supposed to be at the point on the power play,” said Anas who has scored four goals during the losing streak. “There was a scrum down below and it was a heads-up play by [John] Padulo.
“He kicked it to me and both of their [defensemen] were behind the net, a big no-no,” Anas said. “There was no one in front so I knew the goalie would slide over, so I tried to stuff it around him.”
Seven minutes later, the RoughRiders took advantage of Phantoms forward Markus McCrea ignoring the puck at the Phantoms’ blue line to go to the front of Cedar Rapids bench. Seconds later, Dylan McLaughlin set up Mayhew for the game-tying goal.
“Obviously, you’ve got to be smart,” said Noreen acknowledging the mistake. “It was a situation where a bigger guy was taking advantage of one of our guys. We tried to police it ourselves.
“We need to be [smarter] in those situations.”
Early in the third period, Corey Petrash shot the puck between Phantoms goalie Sean Romeo’s legs for a 3-2 lead.
The Phantoms increased pressure in the RoughRiders’ zone and had several scoring chances, including two quality shots by Anas.
Then RoughRider Davey Middleton picked up a rebound off Romeo’s pads and backhanded the puck into the net for the back-breaking fourth goal.
The Phantoms remain four points behind the Muskegon Lumberjacks and six behind the Green Bay Gamblers. The top two seeds in the Eastern Conference get home-ice advantage for the USHL playoffs.