By Tom Williams
For the second time within a 24-hour window, Indiana Ice goaltender Hayden Stewart was invincible against the Youngstown Phantoms.
Stewart stopped 34 shots in a 2-0 victory on Sunday afternoon at the Covelli Centre. That performance followed his 3-0 shutout victory on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
“Congratulations to him,” Phantoms forward Luke Stork said of Stewart. “He stood on his head. We battled hard the whole game — we’ve just got to find a way to put the puck into the net.”
Colin DeAugustine, the Phantoms’ backup goalie, made 23 saves in his team’s third game within 48 hours. Sean Romeo was in net for Friday’s 5-3 win over the Muskegon Lumberjacks at the Covelli Centre and Saturday’s loss.
The only goal in the first 59 minutes came when the first-place Ice (27-7-6, 60 points) were on the power play late in the first period.
Just nine seconds after Phantoms defenseman Kyle Mackey was penalized for interference, the Ice had a 1-0 lead after Denis Smirnov shot the puck from near the boards.
“We had watched video on their power play and they try to hit the guy in the middle,” DeAugustine said. “So I was kind of looking for that but [Smirnov] ended up shooting it from the wall. I wasn’t expecting it and I didn’t have time to get my stick on it. It hit off of my pad and went to their guy [Patrick Newell] at the top of the crease. He had a wide-open rebound and scored.
“I thought I played well — one lucky-bounce goal, it was kind of a screen,” said DeAugustine said after his 19th game. “I’m not saying it wasn’t my fault because it’s my job to stop the puck.
“But that’s a hard goal to stop on the rebound.”
Stork said DeAugustine deserved a better outcome.
“He kept us in the game when we needed it,” Stork said. “We just couldn’t bail him out.”
Not exactly. In the second period during a Phantoms power play, Newell whacked defenseman Tommy Pellah at the blue line and stripped the puck for a breakaway.
But Newell never got the shot off as Stork turned up his jets and caught him from behind.
“I just busted my butt and got back there,” Stork said. “Just lifted his stick and swiped the puck away.
“It would have been difficult coming back from a two-goal [deficit].”
Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen called Stork’s play an “unbelievable effort. Our guys don’t quit.
“That’s probably the best team in the league,” said Noreen of Indiana. “I thought we outplayed them.
“Their goaltender stood on his head for two nights and we had a chance right down to the end. Credit them for doing a great job of blocking shots.”
With 41 seconds remaining, Tyler Pham’s empty-net goal ended the suspense.
“It was one of those games where our guys probably deserved better,” Noreen said.
Considering that both teams traveled to Ohio after Saturday’s game, the first period was surprisingly wide open, with the Phantoms (10-26-5, 25 points) out-shooting the Ice, 13-12.
“I think that’s why it was wide open,” Noreen said of the disrupted routine. “It was a little bit sloppy from both sides.”
The Phantoms killed off four of the Ice’s five power-play advantages. Ice penalty killers were perfect in their five opportunities.
“We’ve just got to find a way to score,” Stork said. “All year, it’s not like we’ve been getting blown out; it’s [often] been close.”