By Kevin Connelly
Goaltender Colin DeAugustine was playing hockey in Johnstown, Pa., last week when his coach told him he’d be joining the Youngstown Phantoms.
On Friday afternoon, Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen told the netminder he’d be getting the start against the Chicago Steel.
After DeAugustine’s performance that night at the Covelli Centre, the next promotion he recieves might be from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
From flashy glove saves to pucks off his mask, DeAugustine’s first career start in the USHL went pretty well as the Phantoms defeated the Steel, 3-0.
“Sometimes you just have a hunch and it pays off,” Noreen said. “For Colin DeAugustine, the hometown kid from Pittsburgh, I don’t think he’ll ever forget this night.
“I couldn’t be happier for him.”
The 18-year-old Burgettstown native didn’t join the Phantoms until practice on Wednesday, but he said the little time he spent with the team last season paid off.
“I was a little nervous,” DeAugustine said of his feelings before the game. “I mean it was my first USHL start, I dressed a lot when [Sean] Romeo was hurt last season, but this was my first actually start.”
It certainly didn’t show as he made 27 saves and looked in complete control even when he was scrambling around in the crease.
After a sloppy, scoreless first period, action began to pick up early in the second. Princeton commit Josh Melnick received a pass from defenseman Alex Smith at the blue line and skated in for a breakaway. His first shot bounced off the blocker of Steel goalie Chris Nell, but the puck came right back to Melnick, who buried it for his first goal of the season.
Then, just after the halfway point of the second period, Steel co-captain Patrick Polino found himself in open ice, but DeAugustine was up to the challenge and flashed some fancy glove work to rob him of a goal and keep the lead intact.
“That was my signiture move,” DeAugustine said. “I let my glove down low and hopefully they shoot it high glove, and I just went up real quick and it worked out.”
Seconds later, Chicago forward Christopher Dodero was called for spearing that resulted in a four-minute double minor penalty and a game misconduct. From there, the ice began to open up for the Phantoms.
In the first minute of the power play, JJ Piccinich was the beneficiary of a failed clearing attempt by Victor Bjorkung and found the puck on his stick in front of the net, where he was able to put the Phantoms up two goals.
“I thought that was a momentum changer,” Noreen said. “On the flip side we had a long kill on a five-on-three and when we killed that off there was no doubt the momentum changed to our bench.”
The third period featured more of the same from DeAugustine between the pipes, which meant more bad news for the Steel. Chicago had no answer for the goaltender all night and when Kyle Connor scored his fourth goal of the season five minutes into the final period, the Phantoms’ three-goal lead was an insurmountable one.
“I think he really proved himself and came up with a bunch of big saves that really motivated the team to play hard,” Melnick said. “Everyone was playing for each other, which I think is something tonight that we did and haven’t done since the beginning of the season.”