By Tom Williams
When hockey teams pull their goalie for an extra skater either when an opponent is getting a penalty or they trail late, goals happen, but not often.
Friday at the Covelli Centre, the Youngstown Phantoms almost connected twice in the same period with goaltender Sean Romeo pulled for an extra attacker.
With the Phantoms trailing Muskegon by two in the third period, JJ Piccinich scored during a 6-on-5 skating advantage as the Lumberjacks were about to be penalized.
Then with about 90 seconds remaining in regulation, Romeo was pulled. Seconds later, Kyle Connor had the puck in the faceoff circle and saw an open net.
His shot rattled off the goalpost and the Lumberjacks escaped with a 4-3 victory that extended the Phantoms’ losing streak to 10.
“[Defenseman Lukas] Klok made a great pass across basically everybody,” Connor said. “Just got to bear down, I think.
“I should have scored — it was open.”
The Phantoms (7-18-5, 19 points) outshot the Lumberjacks (15-15-4, 34 points), 33-30.
“It seems like a broken record, but we hit the post four times tonight,” Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen said. “That’s happened so many times in these one-goal games.”
Attempts off the post and crossbar don’t count as shots on goal.
“You’re never as good as you think you are in a winning streak and you’re never as bad as you think you are in a losing streak,” Noreen said. “We’re in the losing streak, but is there any doubt who outplayed who in that game?”
Energizing the Phantoms was defenseman Bo Pellah, who was traded to Youngstown from the Sioux Falls Stampede on Thursday and spent the night in the Chicago airport after missing a connecting flight by two minutes.
After a restless night and a short nap in the afternoon, Pellah worked with the Phantoms for the first time in the pregame warmup.
“Honestly, I think I’m running off [90 minutes] sleep,” said Pellah, who scored 16 points for the Stampede with a plus-9 rating. “I’m so fatigued.
“I got the jitters out in the first period and settled down,” Pellah said. “Fatigue still set in — tomorrow will be better.”
Noreen didn’t hesitate to use Pellah on special teams.
“He was pretty good tonight,” Noreen said. “He had an assist on the first goal and he [made another pass] where he set up a guy backdoor, a Grade A chance that we missed.
“He’s an elite, puck-moving defenseman.”
Pellah and defenseman Kyle Mackey set up Tyler Spezia’s first-period goal that gave the Phantoms a 1-0 lead.
The Lumberjacks responded with goals by Trevor Morbeck and Haralds Egle.
In the second period, Luke Stork tied the game at 2 by knocking a pass from Conor Lemirande past Lumberjacks goaltender Eric Schierhorn.
Matt Mendelson snapped the tie with a goal late in the second period and Connor Wood made it 4-2 early in the third.
Josh Melnick set up Piccinich for the Phantoms’ third goal about three minutes later.
Down the stretch, the Phantoms had several close calls.
“We had a whole bunch of shots there,” Pellah said. “Their goalie played a good game and kept them in it.”