By Kevin Connelly
Through the first three games of the USHL season, it was evident the Youngstown Phantoms were missing starter Sean Romeo in net.
They had allowed 20 goals over that span and as a result found themselves still searching for their first victory.
Saturday afternoon at the Covelli Centre, it took overtime, but the Phantoms finally got what they had been looking for — a 3-2 win and great goaltending from Jake Moore.
“It feels amazing right now,” Moore said. “Getting that first win of the regular season, especially in overtime, brings the boys a lot closer together.”
The Gamblers forced overtime with a late score after gaining a man advantage by pulling goalie Cam Hackett.
In overtime, Youngstown defenseman Alex Smith’s shot from the blue line found its way under Hackett’s pads for the game-winning goal.
“You felt like the win was coming,” Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said. “Obviously it wasn’t easy — it never is for this team, it seems like — but we just have a knack in this building, late in games, of making exciting things happen.”
Moore made 27 saves for the Phantoms (1-2-1, 3 points), and played the way his coach and teammates knew he was capable of. Noreen said he sat down with his goaltender after he allowed 16 goals in two games to Team USA last weekend, to reiterate their confidence in him.
“It was a very simple, short talk,” Noreen said. “We know you’re good enough to win, we believe in you, look forward and get it done this weekend.”
Midway through the first period, Youngstown captain Alfred Larsson ran a Gamblers skater into Hackett. Matthew Purmal came to his goalie’s defense resulting in coincidental minors, but from there the tone was set.
“It’s great, it’s our type of hockey and that’s the type of hockey we want to get teams playing against us,” Noreen said. “We feel like if we get teams to play like that against us, that plays into our hands.”
Green Bay (2-0-2, 6 points) took eight minor penalties, but the Phantoms were only able to capitalize once.
Youngstown got on the board early in the second period when Kyle Connor found himself all alone in front of the Gamblers net and beat Hackett glove side. Minutes later, a Phantoms defensive lapse allowed Sebastian Weberg to gain control of the puck behind the Youngstown net, where he fed a wide-open Gavin Stoick for a shorthanded goal.
The physical play picked up a notch in the third period when Conor Lemirande and Purmal dropped gloves and tried to swing momentum the best way they knew how.
“It set a huge tone,” Smith said. “[Lemirande’s] fight was huge for the team, that kind of pumped us up, got our guys going.”
Advantage Phantoms, as Kiefer Sherwood scored off a rebound with about eight minutes remaining for a 2-1 lead.
Green Bay pulled Hackett with a minute to go and Ryan Siroky tipped the puck past Moore on a perfect feed from Kevin Irwin to force overtime.