By Tom Williams
In previous seasons, the Youngstown Phantoms would hail a three-point weekend against the Green Bay Gamblers as a tremendous accomplishment.
But after ousting the Gamblers (winners of two of the past four Clark Cup championships) last April, the Phantoms aren’t satisfied with a split.
Last weekend at the Covelli Centre, the Phantoms twice saw the Gamblers rally to force overtime.
On Friday, the Gamblers won, 4-3, on Nick Schmaltz’s overtime goal. The next afternoon, Phantoms newcomer Alex Smith scored in the extra session.
“I don’t think there is anyone inside of this office or the locker room that was satisfied or pleased,” Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen said after Wednesday’s practice at the Ice Zone. “Obviously, [earning] three points is good, but we let them get out of here with three points.
“We felt like we let them off the hook.”
In hockey, each team earns a point in the standings when a game goes to overtime. The winning team earns a second point.
Luke Stork, who scored a power-play goal on Friday and assisted on Sherwood’s goal on Saturday, said, “it was an all-right weekend but it could have been better by taking all the points.”
Smith, who become a Phantom just two weeks ago when he arrived in a trade from the Indiana Ice, said Saturday’s game-winner “was one of the biggest goals I’ve scored.”
Kiefer Sherwood won a faceoff in the Gamblers’ zone and sent the puck back to Smith.
“The pass was just right for a one-timer,” said Smith, who fired on goal then “watched it slip through the 5-hole” of Gamblers goalie Cam Hackett.
Smith said the news of the trade excited him.
“Youngstown is about three-and-a-half hours from home, so my parents can come to the home games,” the Brownstown, Mich., native said. “And the team is coming off two winning seasons.
“I’m looking forward to this season,” the defenseman said.
Noreen said one reason the Phantoms traded a conditional draft pick for Smith was his experience on the power play.
“That’s one of the big strengths that he brings,” Noreen said. “The biggest thing was bringing in another veteran [defenseman] who has been through it a couple of years and knows that the league is about.”
Stork said the overtime win “was a huge boost in [goaltender] Jake’s [Moore] confidence. Also for Smitty — those two guys definitely helped out the most.”
Moore is 1-2-1 in his four starts filling in for starter Sean Romeo, who is rehabbing a groin injury.
This weekend, the Phantoms are on the road in Iowa. They will be in Cedar Rapids to play the RoughRiders on Friday.
“They have 18 returning players from last season, most in the league,” Noreen said. “On paper, they are a team that should be near the top.”
The road trip concludes Saturday in Waterloo against the Blackhawks.