Romeo delivers, top line dazzles as Phantoms cut down ‘Jacks
By Kevin Connelly
In the first of three games in as many days, the Youngstown Phantoms got exactly what they needed from goaltender Sean Romeo on Friday night at the Covelli Centre.
He made 30 saves in net and the Phantoms’ top line played like one as they defeated the Muskegon Lumberjacks 3-1 for their second straight victory.
Trey Bradley had a goal and two assists, Kyle Connor scored a power play goal with an assist, and JJ Piccinich added another power play goal as the Phantoms (10-24-5, 25 points) picked up an important two points to start a difficult home-road-home weekend schedule.
“I thought we had great energy, I thought we [played] hard, and I thought we were physical,” said Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen. “We got them playing our type of game a little bit, mixing it up, and I thought we were very good from start to finish.”
Romeo was 1.9 seconds from earning his second shutout of the season, but a late second period goal by the Lumberjacks (19-19-4, 42 points) proved to be the only blemish on what was otherwise a dominating performance between the pipes.
“I felt good,” Romeo said. “I had a good week of practice going in, so I felt confident from the start.”
The opening period belonged to both goaltenders, who stopped a combined 17 shots in a scoreless first. Romeo was tested early and often, but benefited from a little bit of luck in the first minute of the game. The Lumberjacks’ Connor Wood was staring at an open cage but his shot sailed over a diving Romeo and then over the crossbar. The Lumberjacks had a number of inviting scoring chances in the period, but each time Romeo was quick to shut the door.
“There were some turning points in the game in that first period and Sean made some big saves,” Noreen said. “I thought after that we really tightened up defensively and limited their chances.
“I also thought we did a great job on special teams, both penalty kill and power play, and in today’s game that’s usually the difference.”
A little more than six minutes into the second period Phantoms forward Trey Bradley continued his hot start since joining the team and scored his fourth goal of the season to give Youngstown a one-goal lead. He has 12 points in 13 games and continues to impress on a line that combined for six points Friday night.
“They get better and better every day,” Noreen said. “Obviously it’s exciting to watch them right now, but to know what they’re going to turn into together as a line ... when you’re so close to it, sometimes it’s hard to see how special it is, but there’s not a day that goes by in practice where we don’t watch those three guys and shake our heads.”
In the third period it was the Phantoms’ special teams that got the lead back and eventually iced it. After a Muskegon cross-checking penalty sent a man to the box, Connor corralled a loose puck in front of the net and guided it in for his 19th goal of the season. Less than three minutes later, JJ Piccinich scored his USHL-leading 12th power play goal — 22nd overall — to give the Phantoms a 3-1 lead.
With the win, the Phantoms have put together back-to-back victories for the first time since Oct. 11-12.
“I mean winning’s always more fun,” Bradley said. “Can’t complain.”